The Link Between Diet & Mental Health

What foods are associated with increased psychiatric symptoms? What should you eat if you want to boost your mood? Learn what researchers have found when it comes to diet and mental well-being.

Feed Your Mood: The Link Between Diet & Mental Health

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

You may have heard of the “food-mood connection.” Research indicates that our food choices greatly impact not only physical health, but mental well-being. Some foods seem to boost mood and reduce psychiatric symptoms while others are linked to depression and anxiety.


Mood Thugs

Sugar negatively impacts mood and slows memory and learning. High-sugar diets are associated with smaller brain volume. Furthermore, sugar will make you less alert and more tired. A recent study found that the idea of a “sugar rush” is myth.

Sugar is not the only villain; fat can be just as harmful. One study found that a high-fat diet may lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, trans fat may lead to poor memory function.

If you have bipolar disorder, avoid processed meats such as jerky, hot dogs, etc. Researchers found that nitrates in processed meats are associated with mania.

Mood Champions

A diet high in fiber and vegetables (with limited added sugar) has been linked to improved mood and a reduction in depressive symptoms. Interestingly, women seem to benefit more than men, and the effect is even greater when exercise is added. A vegan or plant-based diet is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Fruits and vegetables are good for mood, but raw fruits and veggies are better. A raw diet is associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing and lower levels of psychiatric symptoms. According to a recent study, the top raw foods associated with mental wellness are apples, bananas, berries, carrots, citrus fruits, cucumbers, grapefruit, kiwi, lettuce, and dark, leafy greens.

So how many servings of fruit/veggies should you eat per day for optimal mental health? At least 8, according to one study that found happiness benefits were evident for each portion for up to 8 servings per day.

What nutrients should you include in your diet for improved mental health? Research indicates the following are important for mental wellbeing:  Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flaxseed, walnuts), phospholipids (egg yolk, soybeans), niacin (liver, avocado, brown rice), folate (legumes, beets, broccoli), vitamin B6 (chickpeas, tuna), and vitamin B12 (sardines, fortified nutritional yeast).

In sum, skip the fast food and soda; head to the salad bar instead to feed your mood and your belly!


Sites with Helpful Resource Lists

(Updated 5/4/20) A list with links to other sites’ resource pages

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

This is a list of links to resource pages for wellness, mental illness, addiction, and self-help. (For resources posted on Mind ReMake Project, click here.)


Sites with Helpful Resource Lists

Community Resources (ADAA) | From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

DISCOVER AND RECOVER: Resources for Mental and Overall Wellness | A blog with tons of resources

Expert Resources from JED and Others | Resources for teens and young adults

Find Resources (CADCA) | An extensive searchable resource list from CADCA (for substance use disorder-related resources)

Free Mental Health Resources | A list compiled by blogger Blake Flannery (last updated 2015)

Links (Sidran Institute) | From the Sidran Institute

Links to Other Empowering Websites | From the National Empowerment Center

Mental Health and Psychology Resources Online | A list of online resources from PsychCentral

Mental Health Resources for Therapists and Clients | From the blog: Info Counselling – Evidence based therapy techniques. Compiled/last updated 2017.

Mental Health Resources List | A fairly comprehensive list. Updated 2018.

Resources | Resources for child sexual abuse

Resources (Veto Violence) | A searchable resource database from Veto Violence (a CDC organization)

Self-Injury and Recovery Research and Resources | Resources for those who self-injure, their loved ones, students, and health professionals

Sites We Like | From S.A.F.E. Alternatives – Resources related to self-harm

Veteran Resources | A resource list from Lifeline for Vets (National Veterans Foundation)


Post your suggestions for resource links in a comment!

Resources for Mental Health Professionals

(Updated 9/28/20) A resource list for therapists and other mental health professionals, including book recommendations and sites that link to (free!) printable worksheets, handouts, and more.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Disclaimer: Some posts contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


This is a list of resources for therapists. Please share with mental health professionals who could benefit!

Please check back as I update regularly. If you have a suggestion, use the contact form on this site.


Suggested Books

Armstrong, C. (2015). The Therapeutic “Aha!” Strategies for Getting Your Clients Unstuck.


Belmont, J. (2015). The Therapist’s Ultimate Solution Book.


Buchalter, S. I. (2017). 250 Brief, Creative & Practical Art Therapy Techniques: A Guide for Clinicians and Clients


Rosenglen, D. B. (2018). Building Motivational Interviewing Skills: A Practitioner Workbook, 2nd ed.




Websites & Blogs


Handouts & Worksheets



social media Groups & Forums


12-Step Recovery Groups

(Updated 5/21/20) An extensive list of support groups for recovery

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

There are a variety of 12-step support groups for recovery. 12-step meetings are not facilitated by a therapist; they’re self-run. Support groups are not a substitute for treatment, but can play a crucial role in recovery.

The following list, while not comprehensive, will link you to both well-known and less-familiar 12-step (and similar) organizations and support groups for recovery.


Click below for a downloadable PDF version of this post.

Support Groups for Addiction


For Families and Others Affected by Addiction and Mental Illness


Secular Alternatives


Religious Alternatives


Additional Support Groups & Organizations


AA Sites for agnostics and atheists: AA Agnostica and AA Beyond Belief

Do you know of a 12-step support group not listed here? Share in a comment!

Research Findings on Health & Psychology

As a #researchNerd, I’m obsessed with new discoveries and scientific explanations, especially when it comes to human behavior. Here are five interesting studies that have been published this year (and it’s only April!)

5 Recent Research Findings on Health & Human Behavior

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

I’m something of a #researchNerd. I fell in love with my research and stats class in college. My undergrad study (on tipping behavior) was even published in a peer-reviewed international journal!

It was in grad school that I strayed from the research path to pursue a more clinical route (counseling).

Today, to satisfy my appetite for science, I subscribe to ScienceDaily, an amazing site that posts short summaries of the latest findings in health, technology, and society.

Here are some of the more interesting research findings from ScienceDaily in 2019 (and it’s only April!):

Recipe for Distress

February 21, 2019

We already know there’s a link between junk food and certain medical conditions (i.e. obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes), but more and more researchers are finding a strong correlation between diet and mental well-being.

In this study, researchers found that people who ate more junk food (sugar-sweetened snacks/drinks, fried foods, etc.) had higher levels of psychological stress.

Original Study: Mental health status and dietary intake among California adults: A population-based survey

Why Is It So Difficult to Move on after a Breakup? Because Science

March 11, 2019

It turns out, there’s a reason it’s hard to forget about all the good times with your ex or get that cringe-worthy mishap at work out of your head; it takes more brain power to forget than to remember. According to a recent study, it takes a “moderate amount” of brain power to intentionally forget something. (#worthIt)

Original Study: More is less: Increased processing of unwanted memories facilitates forgetting

“Killer” Style: Men and Women Serial Killers Have Distinct Methods

March 20, 2019

Are you being “hunted”? Or “gathered”? It turns out, male and female serial killers have distinct approaches when it comes to killing. Evolutionary science may explain why men tend to stalk their victims while women’s victims tend to be people they know.

Original Study: Sex differences in serial killers

All about that Bass (Or Not…)

April 3, 2019

…obese persons were considered “less human.”

This unsettling study revealed that individuals with obesity are not only stigmatized, but dehumanized. Researchers found that obese persons were considered “less human.” This type of attitude can lead to ridicule or discrimination.

#fightStigma

Original Study: Blatant dehumanization of people with obesity

A Million Reasons to Read to Your Young Child!

April 4, 2019

Researchers found a “million word gap” for children who weren’t read to at home. In fact, kids who grow up with books hear about 1.4 million more words than their counterparts by kindergarten.

Original Study: When children are not read to at home


Hungry for more? Keep discovering!