Does Nutrition Affect Teens’ Mental Health?

Teen diet – are you what you eat?


Kay Copeland

Adequate nutrition plays a crucial role in promoting positive mental health in teens.

Hailey Davies, Reporter

Does nutrition affect teen’s mental health? The answer would be yes. What we eat and how we eat it are closely associated with our emotions and mental health. Key nutrients can protect the brain from oxidative stress, prevent potential deficiencies, and correlate with better mood regulation. What we eat influences our emotions, and in return our emotions influences our choices around food. A good diet correlates with fewer instances of depression, even when accounting for other factors and stressors, and improving one’s nutrition can relieve and reduce anxiety.

In a 2013 study, it was found that the risk of depression is 25-35% lower in those who eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, grains, and fish while avoiding processed foods and sugar. In fact, teens in the study who ate a low quality diet had an 80% higher chance of depression. It is important to note that the effects of our eating habits on our mental health isn’t just about what we eat. How we source our food, how we prepare it, and the way we eat it all go into our state of mind. 

Similar to how our diet affects our mood, our mood can also affect our diet. Eating disorders often come from underlying causes such as low self esteem, mental health disorders, or a past history of trauma. Men and women are usually diagnosed with eating disorders during their teen years meaning it is critical that teens are aware of the importance of nutrition. When an eating disorder is paired with another mental health disorder it is classified as co-occurring disorders. Often a patient will be treated for their specific eating disorder and the depression/anxiety goes untreated. This is a problem as depression/anxiety could be the underlying cause of the eating disorder. 

In an interview with Liberty athlete Jersey Goodall (11), she informs us what she eats in a day and how it affects her. Since the presence of sports in her life, Goodall has watched her eating a lot more. Goodall’s usual diet consists of daily energy drinks and protein bars. Goodall expresses her mood as decent.

“It could be better,” Goodall said. Being in high school brings many troubles to all teenagers so this is not an uncommon feeling. As an athlete, struggling with disordered eating is very common in teens, making us vulnerable.  

It’s food for thought. How are you powering your brain? In order to better ourselves and our diets we must understand the impact they have on each other. Teens’ eating habits are so important as we blend into the adult world. I challenge you for even just a week to critique your diet and see the impact it has on your mind. When we eat clean we think clean, after all food is fuel.