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Mental Health and Food

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I am not an expert and do not have any credentials. This information comes from personal experience and research. These are just some tips that I have found to be helpful - I don’t have any magic solutions to help heal from mental illness.

We are what we eat - and one of the best things that we can do for ourselves is give our body the fuel that it needs to carry us through not just our day, but our lives. For more information I recommend this article on nutritional psychiatry from Harvard (I promise that it's not overly academic).

On my path toward wellness, I have found that there are certain foods that can both positively and negatively trigger our bodies and brains. For myself, I find that deep fried foods, while delicious, make me feel more prone to depression, especially if eaten more that one day in a row. I strive for balance and have no issues with the occasional indulgence, so I have not cut these foods out completely, but I do limit my intake knowing how it will impact my emotional health.

Everybody is different (allergies, intolerances, etc.) and I do recommend that you listen to your body if you choose to try incorporating any of these suggestions.

Below I have a list of a few common mental illnesses (with very basic definitions) and foods that have the potential to help or hurt.


What is it? A mood disorder in which a person feels constant sadness and no longer feels any excitement/fulfillment towards life - feelings of hopelessness.

What does it feel like?

- Tired/ lack of energy

- Can’t sleep or sleeps way too much

- No interest/pleasure from things you once found enjoyable

- Always hungry or never hungry (severe weight gain or weight loss)

- Smiling feels forced

For more information, check out this article on depression from the Government of Canada


What is it? Our body’s reaction to stress and danger, anxiety is excessive fear, worry and dread and can be debilitating. Many people have gone to the hospital thinking that they are having a heart attack only to find out it was an anxiety/panic attack.

What does it feel like?

- Increased heart rate, restlessness and irritability

- Sweaty palms

- Rapid heavy breathing

- Difficulty sleeping

- Difficulty concentrating

For more information, check out this article on anxiety disorders from the Government of Canada

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

What is it? A mental health condition triggered by seeing or experiencing one or more traumatic events

What does it feel like?

- Depression

- Anxiety/panic

- Difficulty with self-care

- Flashbacks (visual, auditor, emotional or all of the above)

For more information, check out this article on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Government of Canada

*** I can't stress enough that these are very basic definitions. Every person has a unique experience and I did not include everything that could be listed

Foods that can help:

- Vegetables - lots of them - try to incorporate a higher ratio of above-ground vegetables to root vegetables if you can

- Whole grains - better still if they have not been processed (rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, steel-cut oats)

- Nuts and seeds - walnuts, almonds

- Fruit - bananas, berries

- Salmon (or other fatty fish)

- Turmeric

- Ginger

- Caffeine - only in small doses (see below)

Foods that can hurt:

- Fried foods

- Refined white starches (some breads, crackers)

-Refined white starches (some breads, crackers)

- Caffeine - not good in moderate-large doses

- Processed foods (processed meats in particular)

- Alcohol

I hope that this helps.

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