DARIEN, Conn. -- Teen nutrition is very important, not just for physical health but also for mental well-being. According to experts at Newport Academy , a teen treatment program, an increasing number of studies have highlighted the correlation between diet and mental health.
For children and teens whose brains and bodies are still developing, nutrition is especially critical. “Many of our teens have been abusing their bodies through drug use, neglect of general health or eating disorders," said Dr. Rachel Fortune, medical director at Newport Academy. "We teach kids that, through healthy eating, their minds can be clearer, their aches and pains can be relieved, and their futures can be brighter."
For teens, deciding what kinds of food to eat is within their control, and can directly improve emotional, physical and mental imbalances. According to Newport Academy, researchers have found a link between depression and deficiencies in particular nutrients.
One category of nutrients that positively impacts mental health is omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, walnuts, anchovies, and pumpkin seeds, among other foods. These acids play a role in the functioning of serotonin and dopamine, which are critical to mood and mental health. "Omega-3 and amino acids help balance hormones and aid in serotonin production," said Fortune. "Thus, introducing more foods containing these acids will improve mood and overall mental stability."
Vitamins also play a big role in supporting mental health. Sunlight is the best natural source of Vitamin D, so doctors recommend spending between 10 and 20 minutes outdoors daily, without sunscreen, in order to reap the benefits of natural light. B vitamins also play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions, so foods like bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and pineapples are great for teens.
On the other hand, sugar is the biggest threat to \ mental health, as it has been linked to addictive behavior, depression, and anxiety says nutritionists at Newport Academy. Fortune explained that sugar suppresses a key growth hormone in the brain known as BNDF, which is often found at critically low levels in patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia.
“Anyone who has been to a little kid’s birthday party has seen firsthand what the ‘sugar high’ and the ‘sugar crash’ look like," said Fortune. "Now picture that in an adolescent struggling with addiction and mental health challenges.”
For more information about teens and mental health, visit Newport Academy's website.