Eating your way to better mental health

What we eat is not only critically important for the health of our bodies, but also our minds.

Many studies and reports[1] have shown an association between eating a healthy diet and reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety and various mental illnesses. On the contrary, a diet high in ultra-processed foods has been shown to increase the risk of developing those symptoms[2].

What should you eat to improve the health of your mind and body?

The Mediterranean-style diet is often praised as reflecting healthy eating patterns and nutritious food, with many health benefits. So what does the Mediterranean-style diet consist of? In general, it is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (e.g., beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils), nuts and seeds, fish and olive oil. Poultry and eggs are also included, but red meat and all processed meat (e.g., ham, bacon, salami) are limited. Moderate red wine consumption with meals is also part of this diet, but this is not a reason to start if you don't drink wine.

A 14-item Mediterranean diet assessment tool was used in a study assessing adherence to a “good quality dietary pattern” to determine if participants were following a Mediterranean diet. See how you score. Can you work to improve your score by 1 or 2 points over the next month?

(Martínez-González, Miguel Angel, et al. “A 14-item Mediterranean diet assessment tool and obesity indexes among high-risk subjects: the PREDIMED trial.” PloS one 7.8 (2012): e43134.)

Acknowledging that not all findings across studies are consistent in mental health and nutrition – there is variability in effect size across different populations and depending on the exact measures used and what confounding variables are accounted for. Consider whether a Mediterranean-style diet might be the right choice for you, and work towards implementing it in your lifestyle.

If you want help shifting your eating habits to align better with this or another eating pattern, speak to a dietitian! UBC staff and faculty have access to a dietitian through the EFAP, and your Extended Health Benefits cover the cost of an in-person consult (find a dietitian in your area).


  1.  The Role of Diet and Nutrition on Mental Health and Wellbeing
  2.  A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults – A randomised controlled trial
  3. Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function
  4. Moving towards a population health approach to the primary prevention of common mental disorders
  5. Changing Diets, Changing Minds – how food affects mental health and behavior
  6. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Dietary Patterns and Depression in Community-Dwelling Adults
  7. Mediterranean Diet, Stroke, Cognitive Impairment, and Depression: A Meta-Analysis
  8. Nutritional therapies for mental disorders
  9. A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of a Nutrition Intervention Program in a Multiethnic Adult Population in the Corporate Setting Reduces Depression and Anxiety and Improves Quality of Life: The GEICO Study


  • HR
  • Healthy UBC

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