teen dieting

The Effect Of Diet On A Teen’s Mental Health

June 29, 2017

It is well known that some teens do not always consume the healthiest diets. What may not be as widely understood is that the foods young people ingest could have a significant impact upon their overall mental health.

Why Is The Diet, Mental Health Correlation So Important To Teens?

A healthy, nutritious diet is critical to providing a teen’s bodily systems the energy needed to perform. This is of particular significance in relation to an adolescent’s brain, which during the teenage years, is still in the stages of development. An unhealthy diet can rob the brain of important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that could lead to serious, quite possibly irreversible mental health issues.

What Type Of Mental Conditions Can Teens Be Afflicted With?

Adolescents, like adults can be impacted by a variety of mental health and cognitive issues.


 ailments include, but are not limited to:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Bipolar Disorder.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Poor memories.

How Diet Can Precipitate Certain Mental Health Disorders?

Beginning in the 1950s, many American households have consumed what is referred to as the Modern American Diet (MAD), also often called the Standard American Diet (SAD), categorized by troubling and unhealthy tenets such as:

  • A low consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • A high intake of meat, dairy products, salt, fat and sugar.
  • A high intake of processed food that is often frozen or canned, as well as fried “junk food” commonly found at various fast food chains.

Numerous scientific studies have concluded these dietary habits, which have only become more prevalent in recent years, may increase young people’s chances of developing mental health issues. Some studies have shown dietary improvement can lessen or even eliminate mental health disorders.

What Types Of Foods Should Teens Eat To Achieve Optimal Mental Health?

A number of foods contain nutrients essential for good mental health. These include:

teen diet

Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Amino Acids

These substances are among the best mental health-strengthening foods a teen could consume. Not only do they possess the ability to help the brain release mood altering chemicals, but have been found to protect the organ against serious mental health issues. Omega-3 Fatty Acids can be found in:

  • Salmon.
  • Tuna.
  • Trout.
  • Sardines.
  • Walnuts.
  • Plant seeds (with pumpkin seeds being the most popular).

Foods rich in Amino Acids include:

  • Turkey.
  • Vegetables like artichokes, spinach and beets.
  • Fruits such as bananas.
  • Beans.

Foods Containing Essential Vitamins

Vitamin D and several of the B class of Vitamins possess properties known to improve mood, strengthen brain function and fight depression. These vitamins can be found in a host of different foods like:

  • Green vegetables.
  • Fruits such as tomatoes and pineapple.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Shellfish.


Minerals like Magnesium and Folic Acid have been useful in the fight against depression. These elements are found in abundance in edible items including:

  • Citrus Fruits.
  • Bread.
  • Nuts.
  • Seaweed.
  • Beans.

Foods Teens Should Avoid

Items containing significant quantities of fat, sugar and salt should be consumed sparingly or completely eliminated from a teen’s diet. These unhealthy substances are found in a vast amount of foods, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • Fast food.
  • Canned soups and pasta.
  • Frozen food like microwaveable dinners.
  • Snacks like potato chips, cookies and candy.

In addition, teens should pay close attention to what they drink. Soda and alcohol should be avoided. These drinks not only contain large quantities of unhealthy chemicals, but are also made with substances that can elicit or exacerbate anxiety and/or depression symptoms.

Convincing a teenager to consume a better diet can be a challenge. Young people often enjoy foods which are not the healthiest and it is hard for parents to monitor their son or daughter’s eating habits when he or she is away from home. However, parents can incorporate healthier foods into family meals and take the initiative by improving their own diets. It is also important to realize making dietary changes might not be a cure all for a teen with mental health issues. If an improved diet does not bring about an improvement in a given condition, or if symptoms worsen, the teen may need more in-depth care.