Nutritional Psychology is the area of study that examines the relationship between our dietary intake patterns and our mood, behavior, and mental health. Mental health professionals already address the psychological, cognitive, psychosocial, and behavioral knowledge that contribute to positive mental health, but our current model is not considering dietary intake patterns as a contributor to the rise in mental health issues around the globe.
Nutritional Psychology involves guiding individuals through a process that develops their perceptual, cognitive, and psychological skills in and understand for how their dietary intake patterns may be contributing to the way they feel. The aim of this process is to support increased awareness towards making food choices supportive of mental health. Should the need for intervention or diagnosis arise during this process, individuals can be directed to seek help from a qualified healthcare provider.
Advancing our understanding of the Diet-Mental Health Relationship (DMHR)
The field of Nutritional Psychology is interdisciplinary and draws from the fields of psychology, nutrition, and education to develop a conceptualized framework for developing a broader understanding of the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR). This framework allows us to gain awareness in the deeper, more complex role that food, nutrients, and dietary-intake patterns play on shaping our mood, behavior, and mental health.
The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction
Connecting what we eat with how we feel
Examining the role that family, culture, community, society, and socioeconomic status play in relationship to our dietary-nutrient intake patterns
The relationship between our dietary-nutrient intake patterns and our psychological moods, emotions and affect (e.g., resilience, flourishing, creativity, negativity)
The reactions and choices we engage in resulting from the interaction between our dietary-nutrient intake patterns and environment (e.g., ‘cabinet-surfing’ at night due to improper nutrient intake during that day)
NP is applied and uses findings from research, combined with innovative education, to increase awareness of the psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, and psychosocial aspects of diet related to mental health.
Nutritional Psychology is aligned with the principles of integrative health, and is an avenue for mental health providers to further participate in the integrative health movement.
Integrative health is the movement in healthcare towards a holistic, patient-centered approach. This movement’s primary objective involves treating the patient as a whole person, rather than just a constellation of symptoms. The principle philosophy of this movement is that each patient represents a unique, complex and interwoven set of influences that affect the intrinsic functionality of that individual. Thus, each of these influences must be addressed to achieve wellness.
Evidence for a link between diet and mental health is emerging. Research is demonstrating that diet is playing an increasingly important role in the mental health of individuals and societies around the globe. The essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in whole, unprocessed foods play a significant role in supporting the body’s internal biochemical and physiological processes. These processes have changed little over time, yet our dietary intake patterns have changed considerably towards a Westernized “Standard American Diet”.
As the gap widens between our body’s physiological needs and our Western dietary intake patterns, the importance of considering diet as a piece of the puzzle in the world’s mental health crisis continues to grow. CNP exists to address this need through unifying research efforts relating to the diet-mental health relationship, developing formalized curriculum to support individuals in understanding this relationship, and advocating for the training of students and professionals in the field of NP.
The CNP Global and Parent Resource Libraries house hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies that collectively demonstrate the far-reaching effects our dietary intake patterns have on all aspects of our mental health. These studies illustrate that not only can dietary intake patterns play a role in our psychological, cognitive, perceptual, and psychosocial functioning, but that improvements in dietary intake can support well-being and lead to more positive mental health outcomes.
The field of Nutritional Psychology seeks to unify efforts in these areas by constructing a singular lens through which we view the diet mental health relationship (DMHR), and in doing so, better preparing mental health professionals to accommodate the world’s evolving mental healthcare needs.