Modern-day food manufacturing techniques and general poor nutrition may have a significant impact on mental health, say experts at the UK-based Mental Health Foundation and the nonprofit food and farming organization Sustain. The two charities, working with experts, have correlated modern-day eating practices with the rise in several mental health conditions including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Alzheimer's, and schizophrenia.
Published in January, the Feeding Minds report explores in particular the connection between poor mental health and low levels of omega-3 fatty acid consumption, along with generally insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals. These dietary trends, the authors conclude, not only contribute to serious mental illness but also may be at the root of more widespread issues such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and depression.
Researchers point to nutrient-deficient processed foods, artificial additives, and pesticides as key contributors to poor mental health. Their proposed solution? Boost governmental and private support for organic farming and sustainable fish harvesting, and promote a higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, and oily fish.
To maximize benefits to your own mental health, Debra Boutin, MS, RD, clinic nutrition coordinator for Bastyr University, recommends eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds), magnesium (dark leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds), folate (dark leafy greens, legumes, broccoli, orange juice, and wheat germ), and vitamin B6 (sunflower seeds, halibut, poultry, meat, brown rice, oats, bananas, and potatoes).