Diet and mental health
Diet and mental health

Diet and Mental Health

When people tell you to eat healthy to cure your mental illness.

Diet and mental health are definitely related, but nothing frustrates me more than when someone tries to give me advice to cure or treat my mental illness. I have had family tell me to get off my medication and to start eating healthy to fix my mental illness… I have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder!

What person tells a schizophrenic to get off their medication? I mean it’s one thing to suggest eating healthy to improve quality of life. However it’s completely different to suggest that people who are mentally ill should stop taking their medications.

A healthy diet is not a replacement for medication. Just like a healthy diet is not a replacement for chemotherapy and radiation.

I repeat do not tell mentally ill people to stop taking their medication and replace it with a healthy diet. That being said, can a healthy diet help treat mental illness and how effective is it? Well I have done some research on the effectiveness and capabilities of healthy eating habits on treating mental illness.

I also have tried healthy eating in real life while suffering mental illness to share my experience and thoughts on it.

Diet and mental health are definitely related and certain foods like salmon can be very helpful in treating mental illness. Although a healthy diet can’t be the sole treatment for chronic mental illness, you could definitely see an improvement in your mental health by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Some foods good for mental health

Some foods good for mental health may include:

Fresh fruits and vegetables

It’s no surprise that fresh fruits and vegetables tops the list, but it’s to be expected considering the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.

According to this medical journal, a high fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower rates of depression and distress. Those diagnosed with anxiety disorder and mood disorders also reported eating less fruits and vegetables. These results show a significant correlation between eating fresh fruits and vegetables and developing anxiety and mood disorders.

The researchers accounted for factors such as “age, gender, household income, education, physical activity, chronic illness and smoking”. This means, if you have a mental illness, raising fruit and vegetable intake is not a bad idea.


Water is not so much a food as it is a drink, but it is part of a healthy diet. In this study found here, researchers studied the effects of water consumption on depression and anxiety. They found a significant correlation with water intake and depression, but they didn’t find a significant correlation for anxiety.

The researchers concluded that there was a double risk of depression in those who drank less than two glasses of water in comparison to drinking more than five. This means you could significantly cut down on your risk of depression by drinking 5 or more glasses of water per day, so drink up!


After reading this short medical journal, it is safe to say eating fish can reduce the risk of depression even when separating men and women. This finding is not surprising considering the many studies that link brain health with fish oil consumption or supplementation. Fish oil is said to be a super food, so it’s a good idea to get more in your diet.

Red wine

This article, here, describes how drinking a moderate amount of red wine is associated with a decreased risk of depression. This is good news for those that like to sip on red wine. I’d assume the benefits are still there for dealcoholized red wine. If so, that would be good news for many people that are on medication and can’t drink alcohol.

Foods that are associated with negative mental health outcomes

Not all foods are either good or neutral for your mental health. Some foods are outright harmful for your mental health and can raise your risk of mental illness. Some of these may include:

Junk food and fast food

This is not at all surprising since almost everyone knows that junk food and fast food is unhealthy for you. However, a lot of people don’t realize that eating junk food and fast food can be bad for your mental health.

In this study found here, researchers concluded that lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, but higher consumption of junk food and fast food, is associated with an increase in self reported psychological distress.

Red meat

This is bad news for steak lovers, but the good news is that more research is needed to know for sure if red meat hurts your mental health. Based on this medical journal here, researchers found a higher risk of depression in those that consumed more red meat. However, they concluded more research was necessary to reach a solid conclusion.

My results from eating healthy

My findings from first hand experience on eating healthy is mixed. I have found that eating healthy does in fact improve my health and mood, but it doesn’t do what my medication is capable of. Without my medication, I can’t function at all.

Eating healthy makes a bit of a difference in my mood, but it doesn’t change my mental illnesses such as schizoaffective disorder bipolar subtype. It didn’t even really help my anxiety and panic disorder. The only thing it seemed to help was my mood, but not my motivation levels long term.

Eating healthy seems to cause hypomania in me that lasts a couple weeks to a couple months. Then my mania dies off and I quit. I completely lose motivation to continue eating healthy and when I do the effects of eating healthy on my illnesses are minimal.

In Conclusion

As we can see here, diet is an important part of your treatment plan for anxiety and depression. However for those of us with other mental disorders, it is useful and smart to eat a healthy diet, but it can not cure mental disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, or even anxiety.

The only disease a healthy diet seemed to have a huge effect on was unipolar depression, but not so much other disorders. It is important to maintain a healthy diet. However, if you have something other than depression, it is unreasonable to expect a major, long term improvement in mental health without the necessary treatment for those disorders.

It is important to maintain regular appointments with a counselor and/or a psychiatrist. A healthy diet can NOT replace medications and therapy. Please do not make the mistake of discontinuing treatment of mental health problems unless you have the approval and supervision of a licensed professional.

If you would like to read more about mental illness and mental health topics, click here.

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