Can nutrition improve mental health?

There is growing evidence that a healthy diet can improve mental health. Make your diet scientific to improve your mood, focus, memory, and sleep.

Published : Mar 05, 2023 10:00 IST

Mental health issues could be linked to deficiency of nutrition molecules, allergic molecules in the diet, and pesticides and insecticides in the food chain.
Mental health issues could be linked to deficiency of nutrition molecules, allergic molecules in the diet, and pesticides and insecticides in the food chain.

Mental health issues could be linked to deficiency of nutrition molecules, allergic molecules in the diet, and pesticides and insecticides in the food chain.

I have been a nutritionist for the better part of two decades. Thousands of clients have sat in front of me. We change the way they eat.

Changing a person’s behaviour involves psychological and physiological changes. In today’s fast-paced world, we are less personal, more logical, and devoid of emotions. When friends meet up, everyone is busy looking at their mobile-phone screens. Living in modern society involves a lot of stress. I personally find it difficult to mentally handle so much in my life – I feel like I’m on a high-speed train. Do I slow down? What are the ramifications if I have higher-than-normal expectations? Will my body cope? How is my mind accepting this rat race? Am I living or am I passing life in a blur?

These are questions popping in the minds of even teenage athletes. In the Tokyo Olympics, athletes spoke about stress and mental health, and we had champions pulling out of tournaments. As a nutritionist, I constantly look for ways to improve my mental health by eating the right molecules.

Not eating right affects the cellular (physical) structure of your cells. I remember doing an Omega-3 blood test. The normal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 should be a 3:1 ratio; mine was 33:1 and my 10-year-old kid’s was 131:1. I freaked out. The brain is made up of almost 50 percent fat, and 60 percent of that is made up of Omega-3 fatty acids. The human race is being served tasty but extremely unhealthy foods. When I changed my diet and that of my son to include fish, walnuts, pistachios, and chia seeds, along with a supplement that contained 500mg of EPA and DHA (the main Omega-3 molecules you’re looking for in fish oil or vegan oil), there were drastic improvements in mood markets, focus markers, memory as well as sleep. In fact, my son’s teacher complimented my son three months later, saying that he was listening, super attentive, interactive, and happy in class.

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I am shouting from the rooftops these days: Make your diet scientific. Get the diagnostics of your nutrition molecules done so you know where you are. If you are suffering from mental health issues, have you ever thought that it could be linked to

* Deficiency of nutrition molecules such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and anti-oxidants.

* Allergic molecules in the diet that create massive inflammation internally that you can’t see - you feel it in your thoughts, but you never thought that street food or the improper online foods you order for the last few years could be the culprit.

* Pesticides and insecticides in the food chain that alter the beautiful gut population in your body. The human microbiome has more number of cells than human cells. So when you douse your sacred internal gut micro-organisms’ population with chemical toxins, they rebel. They produce molecules that your body absorbs and create brain biochemistry that runs crazy! I think our health and mental issues today are with the quality of food produce and the cheapness of it in eating outside your home. You’re not sure of its supreme quality.

So should we focus on what we eat for our mental health? We probably should. There is growing evidence that a healthy diet can improve mental health. Here are some scientific studies that support this:

“A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression” published in BMC Medicine in 2017 found that participants who received dietary counselling and support to improve their diets experienced a significant reduction in symptoms of depression.

“Association between dietary intake and mental health in the Japanese general population” published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2018 found that a healthy diet, characterised by a high intake of vegetables, fruits, fish, and soy products was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms.

“The relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: A systematic review” published in Public Health Nutrition in 2018 found that a healthy diet, particularly one that included whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein was associated with better mental health outcomes in children and adolescents.

Additionally, if I am not changing a person’s diet completely, I look to add certain foods that will boost neurotransmitters.


Tryptophan-rich foods: Tryptophan is an amino acid essential for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in regulating mood. Foods high in tryptophan include chicken, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds.

Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel have been linked to increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters important for regulating mood and motivation. Chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and olive oil are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Complex carbohydrates: Eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and starchy vegetables can help increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in complex carbohydrates.

Foods rich in Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is important for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Foods high in Vitamin B6 include bananas, chicken, fish, potatoes, and sunflower seeds.

Foods high in antioxidants: Antioxidants, found in fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, spinach and kale can help protect the brain from oxidative stress and improve neurotransmitter function. Amla is a fruit rich in antioxidants.

I suggest anyone old or young looking to improve their mental well-being do the following:

Sleep eight hours everyday.

Eat organic as much as possible.

Eat fried foods only at home.

Do an Omega3 pin prick blood test for ₹2400.

Make Walnuts, pista, flaxseeds and amla your best friends (Provided you’re not allergic to them).

Do blood tests for your complete nutritional profile which includes vitamins and minerals.

Do a microbiome test and watch for pathogenic bacteria and fungi that aggressively grow in your gut and feed off your past diet.

Air filter your house and car.

Follow Ryan Fernando on  Instagram. Hopefully, I will influence you to change the way you order or eat foods.

Over the years, I believe I have saved many lives via dietary changes. There is no proof of healing after eating a healthy, well-planned, scientific diet as depressed and anxious people never admit to being healed — they say there was never a problem in the first place. However, medals are being won and there are celebrity clients taking advice from me — it is proof that something must be working for them. Please eat healthy for a sane and sound mind.

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