Nutritional Psychology is the area of study that examines the relationship between our dietary and nutrient intake patterns, and our mood, behavior, and mental health. Mental health professionals already address the psychological, cognitive, psychosocial, cognitive-interoceptive, and behavioral components of positive mental health. However, our current healthcare 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 understanding of how their dietary intake patterns may be contributing to the way they feel. The aim of this process is to boost awareness towards 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.

Nutritional Psychology Methods

Advancing our understanding of the Diet-Mental Health Relationship (DMHR)

Building conceptualization in the field

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

The science or study that deals with food and nourishment

The science of mind and behavior

Diet Mental Health Relationship

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 relationship between our dietary intake patterns and resulting thoughts, emotions, and interoceptive experiences that influence our behaviors, reactions, and choices (e.g., increased reactive behavior or changed dietary behavior patterns)


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The relationship between dietary-nutrient intake and our cognitive functions and capacity, including memory, attention, learning and appetite control


The relationship between our dietary-nutrient intake patterns and the sensory processing and interpretation of this information in relation to our experiences, culture, and socioeconomic circumstances

NP is applied and uses findings from research, combined with innovative education, to increase awareness of the psychological, behavioral, cognitive, perceptual, interoceptive, and psychosocial aspects of diet and nutrient intake 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 core 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. Each of these influences must be addressed to achieve wellness.

NP is also aligned with principles of whole health — the emerging transformational approach to health and wellbeing that empowers and equips people to take charge of their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, and live their lives to the fullest.


Evidence for a link between diet and mental health is consistently growing. Research demonstrates that diet plays an important role in the mental health of individuals and societies around the globe. The essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in whole, unprocessed foods support the body’s biochemical and physiological processes. These processes have changed little over time, yet our dietary intake patterns have shifted considerably towards a Westernized “Standard American Diet.”

As the gap between our body’s physiological needs and our dietary intake patterns widens, the importance of considering nutrition as a piece of the puzzle in the world’s mental health crisis continues to grow. The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) exists to address this need through unifying research efforts related to the Diet-Mental Health Relationship, developing formal curriculum to support individuals in understanding this relationship, and advocating for the training of students and professionals in the field of Nutritional Psychology.

Our five Nutritional Psychology research libraries house links to nearly 3,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies and publications informing the Diet-Mental Health Relationship (DMHR). This multidisciplinary research demonstrates the far-reaching effects our dietary intake has on all aspects of our psychological health and well-being. It illustrates that not only can nutrition play a role in our psychological, cognitive, sensory-perceptual, interoceptive, and psychosocial functioning, but that improvements in dietary intake can result in positive mental health outcomes.

Using Nutritional Psychology research, we are working towards a singular lens through which we can all view the Diet-Mental Health Relationship (DMHR) and in doing so, better prepare our health professionals to accommodate the world’s evolving needs.