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The Effects of Food Security on Mental Health

By: Zahra Mardanyar


Mental health is feelings of emotional, psychological, and social well-being (CDC, 2018). It is a crucial contributor to our ability to think, feel, and operate. Having robust mental health can increase our ability to handle stress, relate to others, and improve our overall quality of life. Developing and maintaining our mental health is an ongoing process that's highly influenced by what we eat. 


Our brains and guts are more connected than we think, and eating high-quality foods nourishes our brains and protects us from oxidative stress--waste produced by the body's use of oxygen--that can damage cells. (Selhub, 2015). Moreover, 95% of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates our sleep, appetite, mood, and pain receptors, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract (Selhub, 2015). Since good gut bacteria is key to serotonin production, this suggests that regular access to adequate and nutritious food is key to the way we feel physically and mentally. 


Since regular access to healthy food is key to better mental health, food insecurity increases an individual's chance of experiencing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2017). Research suggests that mental health disorders in food-insecure individuals are usually associated with uncertainty over maintaining or finding future food and embarrassment for being in that situation. (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2017).


Food insecure individuals are more likely to experience mental health disorders than food-secure individuals. Food insecurity affects lower-income households. Kids from food-insecure homes are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders that may affect their ability to cope with life's stresses—putting them at a disadvantage in their school, careers, and ability to establish healthy personal relationships. To reduce mental health disorders, we need to increase food security for everyone. 


Key Points:

  • Food security is key to a good mental health 
  • 95% of Serotonin comes from our gastrointestinal tract, and healthy nutritious food is needed to develop this neurotransmitter. 
  • Food insecurity individuals are more likely to experience poor mental health.
  • Good Mental health is key to living a healthy life.

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Food insecurity can affect your mental health. (2017, April 27). Retrieved March 20, 2021, from 

Learn about mental health - mental health - CDC. (2018, January 26). Retrieved March 20, 2021, from 

Selhub, E. (2020, March 31). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved March 20, 2021, from