Nutritional psychology (NP) is the area of study encompassing the intersection between the psychological, behavioral, and nutritional sciences. Within nutritional psychology, the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR) is explored from the perspective of how nutrition influences how we think, feel, behavesense, and experience.

NP is informed by the discipline of psychology, which seeks to understand the inner workings of people, including their emotions, feelings, motivations, values, and experiences, and how they can better function in the world. NP is also informed by the discipline of nutrition, which examines how diet and nutrients affect our health and how we can use food and nutrients to help us live better, stronger, and longer. In relation to psychology, nutrition helps us to understand how what we eat influences how we feelincluding our emotions, moods, sensations, motivations, and experiences.

Mental health professionals understand the psychological, cognitive, and behavioral components that lead to positive mental health. Dietitians and Nutritionists already possess an understanding of the effects of diet on health. Nutritional psychology (NP) is the area of study residing within the intersection of psychology and nutrition. Knowledge of this intersection is required to understand the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR).


A plethora of research exists to illuminate the interconnections between dietary intake and all aspects of psychological functioning. Yet these findings have, until now, lacked a unified home. Professionals, including psychologists, therapists, nutritionists, psychiatrists, physicians, and students majoring in the psychological and nutrition sciences, have had limited access to formal university-level education and awareness of this evidence base. Today’s mental healthcare system is ill-equipped to apply these findings to drive positive change in the global mental health landscape.

CNP exists to fill this void. We are consolidating the world’s research in all aspects of the DMHR and using it to inform the development of concepts, methods, language, and tools for placement within the education and training system for mental health and nutrition professionals. We are contributing towards advancing the establishment of a nutritional component within mental healthcare by 2030.


The nascent field of nutritional psychiatry is establishing a strong link between diet and clinical mental health outcomes.1 Nutritional psychology is a distinct and complementary area of study that encompasses the psychological, behavioral, and nutritional sciences.2 Within nutritional psychology, the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR) is explored from the perspective of nutrition and its interconnection with how we think, feel, behave, sense, and experience.

While research in nutritional psychology does not exist, the field is informed by an existing and robust evidence base within numerous areas of study across the psychological, behavioral, social, nutrition, brain, and health sciences, among others. Research from these disciplines informs language development, tools, concepts, and methods characterizing the diet-mental health relationship within nutritional psychology3, 4.

The areas of study included within nutritional psychology include emotion5, 6, behavior7-10, psychological functioning, mood, and well-being11-18, cognition and brain19-23, sensation, perception, and internal experience (interoception)24-31, stress, distress, resilience, and quality of life32-36, pain and pleasure37-41, dietary intake regulation and substance use42-45, aggression, violence, and trauma46-48, sleep, fatigue, and performance49-55, psychosocial environment and lifestyle56-59, and personality60, 61.

The Center for Nutritional Psychology (CNP) is the founding organization in nutritional psychology. Created in 2015, our goal is to begin capturing the growing evidence base in NP, which can serve to inform the development of language, methods, and concepts for placement within the psychological and behavioral sciences. Our objective is to facilitate the improvement of the human condition through diet.

Visit CNP’s publicly available online research libraries to view nutritional psychology’s growing evidence base. New studies (and abstract summaries) are added daily!


  1. Marx, W., Moseley, G., Berk, M., & Jacka, F. (2017). Nutritional psychiatry: the present state of the evidence. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society76(4), 427–436.
  2. The Center for Nutritional Psychology (Retrieved Sept. 15, 2022). https://www.nutritional-psychology.org.
  3. Introduction to the Nutritional Psychology Research Libraries (NPRL). The Center for Nutritional Psychology. https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/library-introduction/
  4. The Center for Nutritional Psychology (Retrieved Sept. 15, 2022). https://www.nutritional-psychology.org/educations/ 
  5. Devonport, T. J., Nicholls, W., & Fullerton, C. (2019). A systematic review of the association between emotions and eating behaviour in normal and overweight adult populations.Journal of health psychology24(1), 3–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317697813
  6. Altheimer, G., Giles, G. E., Remedios, J. D., Kanarek, R. B., & Urry, H. L. (2021). Do emotions predict eating? The role of previous experiences in emotional eating in the lab and in daily life.Appetite158, 105016. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.105016
  7. Ma, X., Chen, Q., Pu, Y., Guo, M., Jiang, Z., Huang, W., Long, Y., & Xu, Y. (2020). Skipping breakfast is associated with overweight and obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity research & clinical practice14(1), 1–8.
  8. Elliston, K. G., Ferguson, S. G., Schüz, N., & Schüz, B. (2017). Situational cues and momentary food environment predict everyday eating behavior in adults with overweight and obesity. Health psychology: Official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 36(4), 337–345.
  9. Burger, K. S., Sanders, A. J., & Gilbert, J. R. (2016). Hedonic hunger is related to increased neural and perceptual responses to cues of palatable food and motivation to consume: Evidence from 3 independent investigations. The Journal of nutrition, 146(9), 1807–1812.
  10. Reents, J., Seidel, A. K., Wiesner, C. D., & Pedersen, A. (2020). The effect of hunger and satiety on mood-related food craving. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 568908.
  11. Sun, W., & Kober, H. (2020). Regulating food craving: From mechanisms to interventions. Physiology & behavior, 222, 112878.
  12. Bayes, J., Schloss, J., & Sibbritt, D. (2022). The effect of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young males (the “AMMEND: A Mediterranean Diet in MEN with Depression” study): a randomized controlled trial.The American journal of clinical nutrition116(2), 572–580.
  13. Głąbska, D., Guzek, D., Groele, B., & Gutkowska, K. (2020). Fruit and vegetables intake in adolescents and mental health: a systematic review.Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny71(1), 15–25.
  14. Fatahi, S., Matin, S. S., Sohouli, M. H., Găman, M. A., Raee, P., Olang, B., Kathirgamathamby, V., Santos, H. O., Guimarães, N. S., & Shidfar, F. (2021). Association of dietary fiber and depression symptom: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Complementary therapies in medicine56, 102621.
  15. Boehm, J. K., Soo, J., Zevon, E. S., Chen, Y., Kim, E. S., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2018). Longitudinal associations between psychological well-being and the consumption of fruits and vegetables.Health psychology: official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association37(10), 959–967.
  16. De Leon, A., Jahns, L., Roemmich, J. N., Duke, S. E., & Casperson, S. L. (2022). Consumption of dietary guidelines for Americans types and amounts of vegetables increases mean subjective Happiness Scale scores: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics122(7), 1355–1362. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2021.11.009
  17. Swami, V., Hochstöger, S., Kargl, E., & Stieger, S. (2022). Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect.PloS one17(7), e0269629.
  18. McMartin, S. E., Willows, N. D., Colman, I., Ohinmaa, A., Storey, K., & Veugelers, P. J. (2013). Diet quality and feelings of worry, sadness or unhappiness in Canadian children.Canadian journal of public health = Revue canadienne de sante publique104(4), e322–e326.
  19. Zhang, J., Zhao, A., Wu, W., Yang, C., Ren, Z., Wang, M., Wang, P., & Zhang, Y. (2020). Dietary diversity is associated with memory status in Chinese adults: A prospective study.Frontiers in aging neuroscience12, 580760. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2020.580760
  20. Coccurello, R., & Maccarrone, M. (2018). Hedonic eating and the “Delicious Circle”: From lipid-derived mediators to brain dopamine and back.Frontiers in neuroscience12, 271. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00271
  21. Hepsomali, P., Greyling, A., Scholey, A., & Vauzour, D. (2021). Acute effects of polyphenols on human attentional processes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in neuroscience15, 678769.
  22. Zhang, F., Yin, X., Liu, Y., Li, M., Gui, X., & Bi, C. (2022). Association between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and executive function among Chinese Tibetan adolescents at high altitude. Frontiers in nutrition9, 939256.
  23. Beecher, K., Alvarez Cooper, I., Wang, J., Walters, S. B., Chehrehasa, F., Bartlett, S. E., & Belmer, A. (2021). Long-term overconsumption of sugar starting at adolescence produces persistent hyperactivity and neurocognitive deficits in adulthood. Frontiers in neuroscience, 15, 670430.
  24. Duerlund, M., Andersen, B. V., Wang, K., Chan, R., & Byrne, D. V. (2020). Post-ingestive sensations driving post-ingestive food pleasure: A cross-cultural consumer study comparing Denmark and China.Foods (Basel, Switzerland)9(5), 617.
  25. Proserpio, C., Invitti, C., Boesveldt, S., Pasqualinotto, L., Laureati, M., Cattaneo, C., & Pagliarini, E. (2019). Ambient odor exposure affects food intake and sensory specific appetite in obese women. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 7.
  26. Spence, C., Okajima, K., Cheok, A. D., Petit, O., & Michel, C. (2016). Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation. Brain and cognition, 110, 53–63.
  27. Duerlund, M., Andersen, B. V., Alexi, N., Peng, M., & Byrne, D. V. (2020). Subjective sensations related to food as determinants of snack choice.Foods (Basel, Switzerland)9(3), 336.
  28. Park, C., Pagnini, F., & Langer, E. (2020). Glucose metabolism responds to perceived sugar intake more than actual sugar intake.Scientific reports10(1), 15633.
  29. Hendriks, A., Nederkoorn, C., van Lier, I., van Belkom, B., Bast, A., & Havermans, R. C. (2021). Sensory-specific satiety, the variety effect and physical context: Does change of context during a meal enhance food intake?. Appetite163, 105179.
  30. Robinson, E., Marty, L., Higgs, S., & Jones, A. (2021). Interoception, eating behaviour and body weight. Physiology & behavior237, 113434. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113434
  31. Young, H. A., Williams, C., Pink, A. E., Freegard, G., Owens, A., & Benton, D. (2017). Getting to the heart of the matter: Does aberrant interoceptive processing contribute towards emotional eating?.PloS one12(10), e0186312. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0186312
  32. Radavelli-Bagatini, S., Blekkenhorst, L. C., Sim, M., Prince, R. L., Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Woodman, R., Anokye, R., Dimmock, J., Jackson, B., Costello, L., Devine, A., Stanley, M. J., Dickson, J. M., Magliano, D. J., Shaw, J. E., Daly, R. M., Hodgson, J. M., & Lewis, J. R. (2021). Fruit and vegetable intake is inversely associated with perceived stress across the adult lifespan.Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland)40(5), 2860–2867.
  33. Kleppang, A. L., de Ridder, K., Haugland, S. H., & Stea, T. H. (2021). Physical activity, sugar-sweetened beverages, whole grain bread and insomnia among adolescents and psychological distress in adulthood: prospective data from the population-based HUNT study. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 18(1), 143.
  34. Yin, Z., Brasher, M. S., Kraus, V. B., Lv, Y., Shi, X., & Zeng, Y. (2019). Dietary diversity was positively associated with psychological resilience among elders: A population-based study.Nutrients11(3), 650.
  35. Romero-Robles, M. A., Ccami-Bernal, F., Ortiz-Benique, Z. N., Pinto-Ruiz, D. F., Benites-Zapata, V. A., & Casas Patiño, D. (2022). Adherence to Mediterranean diet associated with health-related quality of life in children and adolescents: a systematic review.BMC nutrition8(1), 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40795-022-00549-0
  36. Whatnall, M. C., Patterson, A. J., Siew, Y. Y., Kay-Lambkin, F., & Hutchesson, M. J. (2019). Are psychological distress and resilience associated with dietary intake among Australian university students?. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(21), 4099.
  37. Elma, Ö., Yilmaz, S. T., Deliens, T., Coppieters, I., Clarys, P., Nijs, J., & Malfliet, A. (2020). Do nutritional factors interact with chronic musculoskeletal pain? A systematic review.Journal of clinical medicine9(3), 702.
  38. Lin, Y., De Araujo, I., Stanley, G., Small, D., & Geha, P. (2022). Chronic pain precedes disrupted eating behavior in low-back pain patients.PloS one17(2), e0263527. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263527
  39. Bjørklund, G., Aaseth, J., Doşa, M. D., Pivina, L., Dadar, M., Pen, J. J., & Chirumbolo, S. (2019). Does diet play a role in reducing nociception related to inflammation and chronic pain?. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 66, 153–165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2019.04.007
  40. Strath, L. J., Brooks, M. S., Sorge, R. E., & Judd, S. E. (2022). Relationship between diet and relative risk of pain in a cross-sectional analysis of the REGARDS longitudinal study. Pain management, 12(2), 168–179. https://doi.org/10.2217/pmt-2021-0048
  41. Landry, M., Lemieux, S., Lapointe, A., Bédard, A., Bélanger-Gravel, A., Bégin, C., Provencher, V., & Desroches, S. (2018). Is eating pleasure compatible with healthy eating? A qualitative study on Quebecers’ perceptions. Appetite125, 537–547.
  42. Schulte, E. M., Sonneville, K. R., & Gearhardt, A. N. (2019). Subjective experiences of highly processed food consumption in individuals with food addiction.Psychology of addictive behaviors: journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors33(2), 144–153.
  43. Rolland, B., Haesebaert, F., Zante, E., Benyamina, A., Haesebaert, J., & Franck, N. (2020). Global changes and factors of increase in caloric/salty food intake, screen use, and substance use during the early COVID-19 containment phase in the general population in France: Survey study. JMIR public health and surveillance, 6(3), e19630.
  44. Witek, K., Wydra, K., & Filip, M. (2022). A high-sugar diet consumption, metabolism and health impacts with a focus on the development of Substance Use Disorder: A narrative Review.Nutrients14(14), 2940. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14142940
  45. Hayek, J., Schneider, F., Tueni, M., & de Vries, H. (2020). Is academic achievement related to Mediterranean Diet, substance use and social-cognitive factors: Findings from Lebanese adolescents.Nutrients12(5), 1535. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051535
  46. Jackson, D. B., & Vaughn, M. G. (2021). Diet quality and physical fighting among youth: A cross-national study.Journal of interpersonal violence36(3-4), NP1180–1192NP.
  47. Liang, K., Chi, X., Chen, S. T., Clark, C., Zhang, Y., & Wang, J. (2021). Food insecurity and bullying victimization among 170,618 adolescents in 59 countries.Frontiers in psychiatry12, 766804. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.766804
  48. Kim, Y., Roberts, A. L., Rimm, E. B., Chibnik, L. B., Tworoger, S. S., Nishimi, K. M., Sumner, J. A., Koenen, K. C., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2021). Posttraumatic stress disorder and changes in diet quality over 20 years among US women.Psychological medicine51(2), 310–319.
  49. Zuraikat, F. M., Makarem, N., Liao, M., St-Onge, M. P., & Aggarwal, B. (2020). Measures of poor sleep quality are associated with higher energy intake and poor diet quality in a diverse sample of women from the Go Red for Women Strategically Focused Research Network.Journal of the American Heart Association9(4), e014587.
  50. Azzolino, D., Arosio, B., Marzetti, E., Calvani, R., & Cesari, M. (2020). Nutritional status as a mediator of fatigue and its underlying mechanisms in older people.Nutrients12(2), 444.
  51. Martins, A. J., Martini, L. A., & Moreno, C. (2019). Prudent diet is associated with low sleepiness among short-haul truck drivers.Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.)63-64, 61–68.
  52. Ge, Y., He, S., Xu, Y., & Qu, W. (2021). Effects of dietary patterns on driving behaviours among professional truck drivers: the mediating effect of fatigue. Occupational and environmental medicine78(9), 669–675. https://doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2020-107206
  53. Whatnall, M. C., Patterson, A. J., Burrows, T. L., & Hutchesson, M. J. (2019). Higher diet quality in university students is associated with higher academic achievement: a cross-sectional study.Journal of human nutrition and dietetics: the official journal of the British Dietetic Association32(3), 321–328. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12632
  54. Leedo, E., Beck, A. M., Astrup, A., & Lassen, A. D. (2017). The effectiveness of healthy meals at work on reaction time, mood and dietary intake: a randomised cross-over study in daytime and shift workers at an university hospital.The British journal of nutrition118(2), 121–129. https://doi.org/10.1017/S000711451700191X
  55. Virtanen, J., Penttinen, M. A., Laaksonen, M., Erkkola, M., Vepsäläinen, H., Kautiainen, H., & Korhonen, P. (2022). The relationship between dietary habits and work engagement among female Finnish municipal employees.Nutrients14(6), 1267. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14061267
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A Field Guide to Nutritional Psychology: Salary, Education, and More

Nutritional Psychology Methods

Advancing our understanding of the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR)


The field of nutritional psychology is interdisciplinary and draws from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, nutrition, physiology, food science, education, and many others to build a framework for a comprehensive understanding of the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR). This framework allows us to gain awareness of the complex and interrelated role that food, nutrients, and dietary intake patterns play in shaping our psychological experiences, processes, and functions.

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 relation to our dietary-nutrient intake patterns.


The relationship between our dietary intake patterns and mood, 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.


The relationship between our dietary intake patterns and interoceptive experiences, which are closely tied to behavior.


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.

NP is applied and uses findings from research, combined with innovative education, to increase awareness of the psychologicalbehavioralcognitive, sensory-perceptual, interoceptive, and psychosocial aspects of nutrition as they relate 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 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.

CNP’s five Nutritional Psychology Research Libraries house links to thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies and publications informing the diet-mental health relationship (DMHR). This multidisciplinary research demonstrates the far-reaching effects dietary intake has on all aspects of psychological health and well-being. It illustrates not only the role nutrition plays in our psychological, cognitive, sensory-perceptual, interoceptive, and psychosocial health, but that improvement 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 DMHR and, in doing so, better prepare health professionals to accommodate the world’s evolving needs.