100 West Lucerne Circle, Suite 100-T, Orlando, Florida 32801-3763

Holistic Counseling and Mental Health Therapy Improving Mental Health with Diet

Holistic Counseling and Mental Health Therapy

Improving Mental Health with Diet

Holistic Counseling and Mental Health Therapy

Holistic counseling and mental health therapy incorporate strategies that allow a person seeking help for mental health issues to manage symptoms with the least intervention. This often means that people experiencing anxiety, depression, mood fluctuations, irritability, or other symptoms can find relief without the use of psychiatric medications.

There are different therapy techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral therapy, anxiety therapy, and individual counseling that have been proven to provide effective relief. When these modalities are combined with a thorough look at overall wellness, the results are long-lasting. In addition to long-lasting and effective mood stabilization, people experience improvement in overall quality of life, relationships, and productivity levels.

Your Diet and Your Mood

Have you ever considered that what you eat may be affecting your mood? A diet high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, has been shown to increase mood, libido, and overall wellness. But why is this the case?

Inflammation

In 1887, the relationship between mental health and inflammation was first noted by Nobel Prize winning Psychiatrist Julius Wagner-Jauregg.

This link has since been researched in greater depth. Studies suggest that individuals suffering from depression have higher inflammatory markers in general. Continually, those with inflammatory medical conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, arthritis, etc.) have higher rates of depression, suggesting that inflammation not only correlates but can play a major role in depression.

In fact, inflammation is known as a major contributor to many chronic conditions, such as Chron’s disease, arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease to name a few.

Brain Food for Better Mood

Improving Mental Health with Diet

A compound known to cause inflammation in the brain through diet is Arachidonic acid (AA), which is found mainly in animal-based foods, such as, chicken, eggs, beef, and fish. This may explain why people eating strictly plant-based have significantly less depression and anxiety. For example, one study found that individuals assigned to a vegan diet reduced inflammation markers by 30%. Another study reported that individuals in a corporate setting assigned to a plant-based diet significantly lowered depression and anxiety while increasing productivity. An abundance of similar research evidence exists- see below for references and resources.

Animal-based foods are not the only culprit, however. It is important to upsurge your intake of whole-plant foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and legumes) to potentially improve mood, as processed foods (i.e. refined grains, sugars, oils, etc.) can also increase inflammation.

Polyphenols Positively Effect Brain Function

Polyphenols are compounds, found abundantly in plant foods, that have an ability to fight against neurological degeneration. Research has shown that polyphenols hinder the breakdown of happiness-producing neurotransmitters (i.e. serotonin and dopamine) in the brain by inhibiting MAO (Monoamine oxidase). MAO levels have been found to be especially high in those suffering from major depression.

Plant-Based Eating

The most anti-inflammatory diet is plant-based due to the high concentration of antioxidants found in plant-foods. The overwhelming body of evidence suggests numerous benefits of plant-based eating for overall wellness, as this type of diet can decrease your likelihood of developing chronic diseases, as well as anxiety and depression.

Which Foods Increase Mood the Most?

Improving Mental Health with Diet

Before reading this list, keep in mind that supplements do not provide the same benefits of whole plant-foods.

  • Berries

    are the healthiest fruit due to their high levels of antioxidants. Frozen berries are cheaper and provide the same benefits as fresh. Consider adding berries to your morning oatmeal, smoothie, or as a snack throughout the day.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables

    are high in antioxidants, and kale is especially beneficial as it contains high levels of polyphenols.

  • Colorful fruits and vegetables

    such as sweet potatoes, red cabbage, tomatoes, red/yellow/orange peppers, etc. are rich in antioxidants, meaning that they fight against the oxidative stress that causes inflammation. The more intense the colors, typically, the more antioxidants a fruit or vegetable contains!

  • Vitamin C-rich foods

    are important because vitamin C is a co-factor in the production of dopamine, a feel-good chemical produced by your brain. Some foods high in vitamin C include peppers, broccoli, potatoes, guava, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, and the list goes on.

  • Herbs and Spices

    fight inflammation. Cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric are some of the most anti-inflammatory herbs and spices.

  • Beans

    contain high levels of folate. An increased risk of depression has been found in individuals who are not getting enough folate.


Holistic counseling and therapy often include taking a closer look at what you are putting inside your body. Research proves that the brain, which is your mood hub, is impacted greatly by what you ingest. Small changes in diet over time, with the right counseling and support, create a long-term solution for mental health symptoms.

At Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching, and Counseling, we strive to provide education on holistic wellness in addition to mental health therapy. We know that people crippled with anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia or other issues, want to find solutions besides medication. You can contact us for more information about counseling or individual therapy. We look forward to hearing from you.

Krista Knowles

Krista Knowles is a registered mental health counselor intern at Orlando Thrive Therapy. She is also a certified yoga instructor. She specializes in anxiety relief and mindfulness strategies. She is also passionate about nutrition and the impact it can have on overall mental health and wellbeing. To book an appointment with Krista, please contact Orlando Thrive Therapy today for more information.

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(407) 592-8997

100 West Lucerne Circle, Suite 100-T
Orlando, Florida 32801-3763
Heather Oller

Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.

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