The Role of Nutrition in Mental Health

Cassie Iannello, Accredited Practicing Dietitian

While many people are aware of the link between diet and the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, you may be unfamiliar with the link between diet and mental health.

Psychologists are aware that people’s eating behaviours and appetite are often a symptom of mental health disorders, and the DSM-5 includes these as presenting symptoms.  For example, anxiety and depression can typically manifest in several ways that can impact your nutrition including the following:

  • Loss of control when eating
  • Restrictive dieting
  • Guilt around certain foods
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Emotional eating
  • Lack of hunger or fullness
  • Manipulation of appetite

Dietitians are aware of the interrelationship between diet and mental health.  While changes in eating and diet are a symptom of mental health disorders, it works in reverse also, and a poor diet can cause problems including mood, thinking style, energy.

Below are examples of nutritional imbalances in your diet that can cause signs of depression and anxiety:

  • Low or high blood sugar levels from food choices and/or erratic eating schedules can lead to mood swings and changes in energy levels.
  • Like depression, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, loss of interest, low mood, and anxiety. Vitamin D deficiency is often common during the winter months, as your body relies on sun exposure to produce vitamin D. Alternatively, you may develop deficiencies if your diet is low in vitamin D rich foods such as eggs, milk, and fish.
  • Omega 3, an essential fatty acid found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds is important for your brain health, with studies showing a relationship between omega 3 dietary intake and depression.
  • Tryptophan, an amino acid found in animal and soy products, is a precursor to serotonin, an essential hormone that regulates mood.
  • B vitamin and iron deficiencies can cause low energy and fatigue, further worsening mood. Furthermore, IBS related diarrhoea, which can be worsened by anxiety, may lead to poor absorption and deficiency of these nutrients.
  • Fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics found in food are essential for gut health. Why is gut health important? Up to 90% of serotonin is produced in your gut!

Developing a healthy relationship with food and fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods is essential for not only improving your physical health but your overall mental well being.

So how does a dietitian come in to play with this?

A dietitian is the only credentialed, board-certified nutrition professional that can help reach your goals.

Our dietitians will help identify how mental health is affecting your diet and what changes can be made to your diet and eating habits to optimise your mental and physical health.

During an initial assessment, our dietitian looks at the big picture: your health conditions, mental health, food intake, eating and lifestyle habits, cultural beliefs and so much more. Using this information, you and our dietitian will work to create a plan that is in line with your goals. Rather than quick fixes, a dietitian will help facilitate sustainable behavioural changes to improve your physical and mental well-being.

If you’re ready to get started with improving your mood and energy today, give us a call at 08 6381 0297 or visit for more information.

Medicare and private health insurance rebates are available.

We are NDIS registered – where included in your plan, this service would be free to you.

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