Does poor nutrition cause depression and anxiety?

Depression and anxiety rates are soaring, especially in these COVID-19 timesOpens in a new tab., it is especially important to support your mental well being. Exercise, sunlight, fresh air, mindfulness and a healthy wholesome diet all go hand in hand in helping our mental health.

Does poor nutrition cause anxiety and depression? Recent research is linking poor nutrition to poorer mental health outcomes. There is also a link between gut health, serotonin production and depression and anxiety. Mental health awareness  and signs and symptoms of mental health has been some of the top searches, especially in covid 19 times.

The brain needs quality food to continue to function at its best every day.

There has been some very good quality research to show the link between poor nutrition, gut health Opens in a new tab.and mental health. Let’s explore further the anxiety and depression stats before going into research linking nutrition and mental health.

Anxiety and Depression Stats

In previous years, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 19.1% of U.SOpens in a new tab.. adults have suffered from anxiety disorders that further led to depression. Depression affects more than 18 million adults annuallyOpens in a new tab..

Children between the ages of 13 and 18 years old suffer anxiety in the range of 25.1%. Anxiety and depression, unfortunately, are common mental disorders that affect a total of 40 million individuals every year. Depression is one of the main reasons why individuals take their own life.

However, these stats have drastically changed since the advent of the Coronavirus and its total overall mounting effects in 2019 and 2020. Currently, due to this viral pandemic, 1/3 of Americans are displaying signs of anxiety and/or depression.

The Census Bureau reports that mental health issues have jumped to a population showing that 24% are demonstrating major depressive disorders and 30% are showing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders. This is not normal!

Help Change Your Mood With Nutritious Habits


More poor dietary and mood changing diseases may have a causal link. Opens in a new tab.Poor nutrition impacts our concentration and learning ability. Children cannot learn when their stomach is growling by digesting foods that are not nutritious.

Excellent nutrition in early life has been explored in many research studies, which have found that a poor diet is linked to reduced mental health in children and adolescence. Opens in a new tab.

Those poor food choices include anything “processed” and unhealthy saturated fat. Eating highly processed and sugary foods leads to sudden peaks and valleys according to our blood.

A poor diet lacking in the required vitamins and minerals causes fatigue, irritability, insomnia, as well as anxiety and depression.Opens in a new tab.

Anxiety vs. Depression


Anxiety and depression are two different conditions, yet they are interrelated. You can start being filled with anxiety that can turn into depression.

The symptoms of anxietyOpens in a new tab. include worrying about little things, becoming restless to the point of fatigue, and not wanting to eat a proper diet. Major symptoms of depression are more intense.

Depression symptoms iOpens in a new tab.nclude feeling hopeless, having no interest in life, no appetite, insomnia, feelings of guilt and shame, and thoughts of suicide. Depending on your daily lifestyle, there may be some symptom-overlaps.

There are many therapeutic and medical treatments for both disorders.Opens in a new tab. One such mental health product that you and I can control in lessening anxiety and depression is our diet. Anxiety and depression being directed by what we eat is a huge factor.Opens in a new tab.

Better Mental Health


Many clinical studies have discovered that people of all ages whose dietary requirements are of poor-quality can affect their mental health. Opens in a new tab.

Eating a regular diet of processed foods, fried foods, or a high-fat diet aids in the existence of poor and foggy mental health.

On the other hand, a regular diet of fresh fruits, veggies, seafood, beansOpens in a new tab. and more helps to protect us from mental and physical diseases.

When we talk about mental health, we are referring to our “cerebrum system,” or simply the “brain.” Every thought, movement, breathe, pumping heart, emotions, and more that are directed and controlled by our brain.

Mental Health: Good Bacteria and Bad Bacteria


Our digestive system helps to guide our emotions. Scientifically, our bodies products chemical nerve cells known as “serotonin.”

Serotonin helps to give us a good night’s sleep, guides our appetites, improves our moods, and exhibits pain when we become hurt. Serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal tract, where our “good bacteria” resides.

These bacteria protect our body against invasive toxins or “bad” bacteria. Good gastrointestinal bacteria fight these inflammations and guides how well we absorb nutrients from what we eat.

Good bacteria also aid in activating our neural pathways which is a direct link to our brain. Food as nutrition is medicineOpens in a new tab., but the healthier and fresher our food, the better our brain and body health performs.

The National Institute of Mental HealthOpens in a new tab. further reports that changing our diet is not the panacea in controlling anxiety or depression. However, it has been researched that when we eat better foods, drink more water, exercise, etc., we are improving our mood and relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. Healthier dietary changes help to keep our blood sugar level and help to create calmer emotions.

I have written an article directed at gut health Opens in a new tab.and how what strategies can be used to improve your gut health. There is also a free ebook available to guide your diet.

Download my free gut health guide

Foods To Help Depression and Anxiety


When there is an onset of anxiety that can lead to depression, this is an ongoing disease that continues to be researched. However, physicians have learned that what we eat helps to keep our neural system and the body, working well and healthy.

Our food contains nutrients like vitamins, compounds, minerals, and more that directly affect how we feel and function.

Here are just a few goods that go along way in helping to control our anxiety and lessen depressive emotions:

  • Fibre – foods filled with fibre helps our body to absorb excess glucose or food sugars. Fresh fruits like apples, pears, oranges, and berries are rich in fibre. Other fibre-filled foods include vegetables like carrots, brussels sprouts, peas, corn, potatoes, etc. Grains, oatmeal, nuts, beans, are also fibre-enriched foods.
  • Antioxidants – antioxidant foods fight inflammation in all parts of the human body. Anti-inflammatory foods include leafy green veggies, berries, salmon, dark chocolate, and certain spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, curry, paprika, and more.
  • Folate – Folate is vitamin B which helps to construct our DNA cells plus it produces red blood cells. Foods high in folate include green and leafy vegetables, legumes, eggs, citrus fruits, and lentils are filled with folate. Leafy veggies contain anti-inflammatory compounds that help lessen inflammation of the brain, which is causes depression. They help to keep our immune system strong, which aids in keeping us physically and mentally healthy.
  • Vitamin D – as discussed above, vitamin D aids in serotonin production. In addition to certain foods, safe sunshine also gives us vitamin D. Opens in a new tab.The dietary inclusion of mushrooms, fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon. Soy milk, cereals, beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese also are fortified with vitamin D.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium fortifies our muscle and nerve cells. This mineral is essential to our digestive system, thus our brain because any irregularities in this region of the body can cause anxiety and depression. When you include foods like deep dark chocolate and nuts like almonds and/or cashews, you are fortifying your mental health. Other foods containing magnesium are bananas, beans, green and leafy veggies.

We Are What We Eat


Harvard Medical SchoolOpens in a new tab. states that 95% of our serotonin cells are in the lining of our digestive system and is linked to the brain.

As previously stated, the link between our gut and our brain is vital because any irregularities in either system destabilize our mood or emotions.

If it was not for the medical community keeping us informed of our health, many of us would not know that, yes, there is a relationship between nutrition, anxiety, and depression.

Typically, depression is thought to be a biochemical or an emotional problem rather than having a basis in nutrition. The National Institute of HealthOpens in a new tab. and the U.S. government are working with many health-related organizations and agencies to make nutritional information more available as it relates to our mental health, our cognitive senses, and our daily emotions.

In the research of neuroscience,Opens in a new tab. it has been proven that specific diets have both a good impact and a harmful impact on our mental health affecting our moods identified as depression and anxiety. We are what we eat!

This helps to answer the question does poor nutrition cause anxiety and depression? Poor diets will worsen mood disorders. But an enriched nutritious diet can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Take home message


A healthier diet is part of the mood changing anxiety and depression environment. Also, there are other factors, especially directed by a visit to your doctor. Dealing with a body and mental illnesses takes an integrative approach.

Eating processed foods day in and day out is contributing to chronic physical and mental symptoms. Do not hesitate to seek help when you start to exhibit any of the symptoms from anxiety and depression identified above.

Healthier foods help to repair and decrease inflammation in the body’s brain cells. It has been determined that people exhibiting anxiety symptoms and/or depression symptoms produce a certain type of chemical enzyme. Unfortunately, this enzyme (MAO) breaks down the neurotransmitter chemicals (serotonin for one) that regulate our moods.

Remember the relationship between food and the brain. Foods high in levels of what the brain needs to function well, like berries, fruits, and veggies help to increase our serotonin and other neurotransmitter agents.

If we provide our brain with excess fatty foods or foods high in sugar, on a daily basis, inflammation in the brain forms feelings of anxiousness, stress, and depression.

Eliminating inflammation in the brain created by the types of foods we eat not only affects our physical health but our mental well-being also.

Can eating healthier prevent anxiety or depression? Clinical research and studies have reported that when given a healthy diet of nutritious foods, individuals were happier and were able to handle problems a lot easier.

No, food alone does not prevent mood changes, but it does provide the foundation needed for clarity, restfulness, and strength. In addition to eating healthier, you need to become more active. Exercise helps to release endorphins in the brain, which act as a natural antidepressant. We can manage our feelings of anxiety and depression symptoms by combining medical remedies with a good diet and exercise.

If you found this topic interesting, check out my blog on the best Youtube channels to learn and support mental health and mental illness. Opens in a new tab.


Emilie MASI

Nurse Practitioner Masters in Advanced Nursing Practice Graduate Diploma of Wound Care Masters of Wound Care

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