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Focusing on Nutrition

March is National Nutrition Month, which focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. As we talk about nutrition, it is important to understand that what we eat doesn’t only affect our physical health, but also our mental health.

Can food improve my mood?

Nutrition and diet are an important part of our mental health, and studies show that a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, and antioxidants is associated with decreased levels of depression. Conversely, consuming high levels of red and processed meat, sweets, high-fat dairy, butter, and little amounts of fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of depression. Our brains work non-stop and control everything we do, including how we feel. Certain foods can decease the symptoms of mental health disorders and increase our mood.

For example, try incorporating some of these into your diet for a mood boost.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a key contributor to brain development. Studies show that consuming Omega-3 from fish oil lowers depression levels. Fatty fish such as salmon and albacore tuna are good sources of Omega-3.

Carbohydrates are linked to serotonin, the brain chemical that helps to boost the mood. Choose smart carbs such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit sugary ones such as cakes and cookies.

Leafy greens such as spinach and chard contain magnesium which increases serotonin levels. It is estimated that 50% of Americans have low magnesium levels and this deficiency has been linked to increased symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Antioxidants help to lower inflammation which is often associated with depression and other mood disorders. One study found a 39% decrease in depression symptoms in a diet that is high in purple foods and blueberries.

Nuts and seeds are healthy fats and a good source of fiber. Additionally, they also provide amino acids that help produce serotonin. A study of 15,000 people found that those who had a moderate nut intake had a 23% lower risk of depression. Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts are a good source of zinc which is important for brain function.

Nutrition at Pasadena Villa

Nutrition plays a key role in mental health and we educate residents on how balanced meals and snacks are just as important as taking prescribed medication and participating in therapeutic activities.

  • At the Villa in Orlando we consult with a registered dietitian regarding our menu, including food offerings and portion sizes. We do not fry any of our foods and begin each lunch and dinner with either a healthy soup or salad and we can accommodate food sensitivities, allergies or medical diets (gluten-free, low sodium, etc.).
  • Mealtime can be difficult for some residents, for this reason, our staff provides emotional support and offers help for appropriate portion sizes and appropriate conversations as we discourage “diet” talk and body shaming talk. As part of Pasadena Villa’s Social Integration ModelTM, residents go out to eat in the community once a week where they are supported in making appropriate portions and balanced food choices before, during and after the meal.
  • Residents participate in Cooking Group at least once per week, choosing meals that they would like to prepare, shopping, and learning and practicing effective and sanitary cooking practices while working in teams.  After Cooking Group residents are encouraged to try their culinary creations and appropriate portion sizes are discussed as they portion out the dish they prepared. Individual cooking sessions are provided to residents at lower levels of care and for those who would like or would benefit from additional cooking lessons.
  • On Sunday nights we have Order Out Night during which residents can have food delivered. Our culinary team also provides a meal for those that do not wish to participate in Order Out Night. Residents that do participate in Order Out Night, do so under the supervision of staff and are reminded about portion control and budget.
  • Our residents and staff also participate in the local National Eating Disorder Association walk, where they can help to raise awareness about eating disorders and hear speakers talk about the important role balanced meals and snacks play in mental and emotional stability.
  • Residents at The Villa are provided memberships to the downtown Orlando YMCA as physical exercise compliments a well-balanced way of eating. Residents (who are medication and treatment compliant as well as medically cleared) are taken to the YMCA at least 3 times per week and more often if exercise is a healthy coping skill for an individual.

At Pasadena Villa, we strive to nurture not only an individual’s mental and emotional health but physical health as well.  We believe that we have a responsibility to do whatever possible to prepare our residents for life after treatment.  For more information on our treatment program, call us today or complete our contact form.

If you think that you or a loved one may be struggling with a mental health disorder, Pasadena Villa can help. We are here to answer questions and connect to care. Pasadena Villa currently offers treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Cary, North Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina. To learn more about our program, call us at
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