What is Nutritional Psychology?

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.

Facilitating psychological skills and intrinsic motivation, not prescribing diets

Nutritional Psychology involves guiding individuals through a process that develops their perceptual, cognitive, and psychological skills in and understanding 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.

Nutritional Psychology Methodology

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

Psychosocial

Examining the role that family, culture, community, society, and socioeconomic status play in relationship to our dietary-nutrient intake patterns

Psychological

The relationship between our dietary-nutrient intake patterns and our psychological moods, emotions and affect (e.g., resilience, flourishing, creativity, negativity)

Behavioral

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)

Interoception

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Cognitive

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

Perceptual

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 principles of Integrative Health and Whole 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.

NP is aligned with principles of Whole Health — the newly 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.

Nutritional Psychology meets a growing need...

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 more than a thousand 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, interoceptive 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.