How Diet Affects Our Psychology

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How Diet Affects Our Psychology

written by Maria Mantzorou

Diet plays an undeniably important role in physical health, while newer data show further its important role in mental health. Our diet provides all the micronutrients & macronutrients that the body needs, including the brain to function properly. At the same time, diet is negatively affected due to mental illness. For example, a person with depression may be more likely to consume fast food or low nutrient density foods. Nutrient deficiencies, the quality of the diet we follow, as well as the intestinal microbiota emerge as important factors that can positively or negatively affect mental health.

Healthy eating patterns, with foods such as olive oil, fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts, legumes, poultry, dairy and raw meat are associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety disorder. Also, diets rich in fiber and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a reduced risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Conversely, unhealthy eating patterns are associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety disorder. In addition, specific nutrients such as calcium, chromium, folic acid, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamins D and B12, zinc, magnesium and D-serine have been studied as adjunctive therapy against depression. Additionally, the results of research on the effect of diet on the symptoms of depression and anxiety are also encouraging, with studies showing an improvement in mental health after dietary intervention.

In Greek seniors, where depression is common, adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was associated with a reduced risk of depression, and low cognitive function (dementia), a fact of particular importance for public and personal health!

Our gut, which is considered our “second brain”, not only neurologically, but also through the gut-brain axis also seems to play a role in mental health. Studies in animals and humans show that changes in the gut microbiota, which are inextricably linked to our diet, affect brain function, and behavior, among others. The intestinal microflora also appears to be associated with the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety disorder and anorexia nervosa.

The literature keeps growing regarding the relationship between nutrition and mental health. A healthy diet, therefore, and especially the Mediterranean Diet, seems to be our ally for good mental health!

Maria Mantzorou
Clinical Dietitian-Nutritionist, MSc, PhD cand.
Mitilini, Lesvos
Tel.: 2251103358, 6936865437


Mantzorou, M., Vadikolias, K., Pavlidou, E., Tryfonos, C., Vasios, G., Serdari, A. and Giaginis, C. (2020) ‘Mediterranean diet adherence is associated with better cognitive status and less depressive symptoms in a Greek elderly population’, Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 1-8.

Sadeghi O, Keshteli AH, Afshar H, Esmaillzadeh A, Adibi P. Adherence to Mediterranean dietary pattern is inversely associated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress. Nutr Neurosci. 2019 Jun 11:1-12. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2019.1620425. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 31185883.

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