• Written by Emerald Casto, Edited by Alyssa Fort

Does Nutrition Affect Our Mental Health?


Have you ever wondered what exactly being in a state of “good” mental health entails? According to the National Institute of Health, the most common mental illnesses that cause one’s well being to be compromised include depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The medical journal then goes on to say how one’s nutrition is often a possible contribution to imbalanced times in our lives. It explains a lot for us college students because it seems we are so often eating on the run! Sometimes we begin to feel that “blah” feeling taking over and often feed our emotions with what we are craving at the moment. Although it may not always be the Big Mac and fry, it does seem that what we eat can truly affect our mood and day-to-day behavior. The National Institute of Health states that poor appetite, craving sweet foods, and skipping meals are all linked to depression.

Mental illness and health are emerging topics that need to be discussed in health settings, hospitals, acute care facilities, and most importantly schools. It is currently Mental Health Awareness Week, a national movement put on every year during the first week of October by the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI). This movement is used to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health. NAMI uses this week to help connect individuals, provide funding for further research, and help families and those with mental illness know they are not alone. The website has many useful resources on support groups, treatment plans, and much more.

A college campus is no stranger to mental health awareness. It is encouraged for students to reach out if we begin feeling uneasy, too stressed, or nervous. Here at UNF, we have many resources for students, one of which is free counseling sessions at the Counseling Center. The counseling center is open to all students and offers many different options. Classes include art therapy, group therapy, wellness and mindfulness activities, individual counseling sessions, and eating disorder therapy. The counseling center offers up to six counseling sessions per semester to all UNF students, so please don’t hesitate to stop in the counseling center to see what they have to offer.

We often only associate poor nutrition with overeating, but under-eating is a huge cause for concern in the student population. UNF Counseling Center offers a wide range of body image classes that deal with serious eating disorders. Under-eating due to lack of income is a possible reason for a student's diet to be lacking, which may, in turn, affect their mental health. For any student whose diet and wallets are lacking, we recommend the Lend-a-Wing Pantry located on campus inside of Hick’s Hall. There are frozen veggies, heart-healthy canned soups, beans, brown rice, and even some fresh produce grown at the Ogier Garden on campus for students that need groceries.

We encourage you to fill your plate with whole grains, vegetables, and lean sources of protein to keep your mental health and your diet in check this semester. Don’t forget to stop by the salad bar in the Osprey Café, or grab a whole wheat turkey sandwich at your next visit to Outtakes. We will also be at Market Day this Wednesday, October 9th, giving away a refreshing Blueberry Iced Green Tea and demonstrating how nutrition can improve your mental health - so make sure to stop by to say hi and grab some tea on your way to class!

Here’s to happy and healthy eating, Ospreys!

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

2. https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/mental-illness-awareness-week

3. https://www.unf.edu/counseling-center/

#MentalHealth #counselingcenter #nutrition

For more information about meal plans or hours of operation, please visit dineoncampus.com/unf