PSY-5303 v6: Behavioral Nutrition ARELIS Assignment Paper

PSY-5303 v6: Behavioral Nutrition ARELIS Assignment Paper

PSY-5303 v6: Behavioral Nutrition ARELIS Assignment Paper

Interaction of dietary choices and mental health and behavior in the aging population

Mental health conditions have become a major health concern because of the increasing prevalence and impact on individuals. For example, depression is the leading cause of disability, while mental health issues cause significant impairment in social life and daily functioning. On the other hand, there is an overwhelming obsession with diet and proper nutrition as the solution to the pervasive health problems experienced by various populations. Over the past few years, there has been an increasing interest in the connection between dietary and mental health outcomes. Several studies link nutritional behavior to mental health outcomes; for example, a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with improved mood and happiness, while a diet lacking adequate fruits and vegetables is linked to distress. Nutritional needs vary across different populations across the lifespan and between gender. For example, the dietary needs of adolescents are different, and the same goes for nutritional requirements between adolescent boys and adolescent girls. One population that has high nutritional requirements critical for positive health outcomes is the aging population.


Despite the importance of proper nutrition on health outcomes, making appropriate dietary choices is not easy because of cultural influences. Through culture, people learn to adopt certain dietary practices that influence their nutritional choices and influence. These are learned behavior and difficult to overcome; hence, the struggle in attaining proper nutritional behavior. Most culturally acclaimed food behaviors are often unhealthy, filled with high calories, and often over-reliant on one food source. This can lead to improper intake of nutritional requirements causing malnutrition or undernutrition. Regardless, the value of nutrition on health outcomes remains undisputed, making it critical to adopt positive nutritional behaviors. This workshop aims to teach the connection between nutrition and mental illness and the association of dietary choices with behavior for the aging population. The workshop seeks to persuade the audience on the importance of nutrition to mental health, thereby influencing positive dietary choices for proper nutrition.

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Cultural and Social Influences on Dietary Choices

Culture and social norms play a critical role in people’s decisions and choices. Culture reinforces beliefs and behavior that remains engraved in a person throughout their lives. Each culture has its dietary choices and preferences, majorly dependent on the environment, lifestyle, climate, and religion (Mora & Golden, 2017). The influence of culture makes food habits the most complex of human behaviors. One food may be liked by a person and disliked by another individual due to racial, ethnic, and traditions that influence behavior. Nevertheless, Khanna (2022) explains that various food combinations give similar nutritional results; if a particular food is not edible in a certain culture, another food with alternative nutritional components must be available in that culture. According to Reddy & Anitha (2015), culture is responsible for habits and attitudes about food deliberately taught by the community from childhood and become internalized into the unconscious. Thus, most people regard food as cultural rather than nutritional, making it deeply entrenched in a person, and influencing food choices.

Given the importance of food in cultures, food has a ceremonial role in almost every community, making it a central component in all social gatherings. According to Monterrosa et al. (2020), food is attached to cultural values and attitudes shared and passed on from one generation to another during ceremonies and everyday life. As people get exposed to food, particularly children, when growing up, they become emotionally attached to certain foods through physiological conditioning, which influences their identities and food choices throughout their life course. While cultural influence on food choices is good because it reinforces the values and identity of a community, certain cultural food behaviors can be harmful because they tend to promote an unhealthy diet. For example, a study by Dao et al. (2020) links the food culture in a community in France to high rates of obesity (Dao et al., 2020). Another aspect of culture that influences food choice is food taboo. For example, certain communities forbid women from eating selected foods such as fish products, avocado, meat, butternut, and eggs, yet these food products are rich in essential nutrients required to support the health of the mother and the growth of the unborn baby (Chakona & Shackleton, 2019). Similarly, cultural activities can encourage over-indulgence in high caloried foods, causing weight gain. On the other hand, food culture encourages eating traditional foods, which are often nutritious filled and healthy. Hence, culture has both positive and negative impacts on food habits.

The Connection Between Nutrition and Mental Health

            The link between mental health and diet is not fully understood; however, most researchers note the connection between what people eat and how they feel, meaning diet influences moods. According to Mental Health UK, healthy nutritional habits such as eating regularly and staying hydrated reduce temper and promote positive mood and concentration (Mental Health Foundation, 2022). On the other hand, taking caffeine can cause irritability, insomnia, and anxiety. Similarly, a good balance of healthy fats is important for brain health, while a diet with high amounts of trans-fat is bad for the mood. A study stresses that proper nutrition is the best approach to managing depression and anxiety, which have become the top causes of disability globally (Firth et al., 2020). For example, a diet of highly processed carbohydrates is linked to negative effects on mood and increased risk of depression and anxiety (Salari-Moghaddam et al., 2019). Carbohydrates and trans-fats contain calories and saturated fats that cause dietary inflammation, associated with the increased risk of depression and anxiety.

An example of a healthy diet that promotes mental well-being. According to Firth et al. (2020) the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet is rich in polyphenols and polyunsaturated fats, which have anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the risk of depression or relieving its symptoms (Firth et al., 2020). In contrast, the Western diet is less healthy because of high amounts of processed foods and sugar-based drinks. Furthermore, proper nutrition is linked with mental well-being of individuals and populations, including lower risk of mental illness, better mood, improved cognitive functioning, and less stress (Firth et al., 2020). Firth et al. (2020) also show that proper nutrition leads to a gut microbiome, which is essential for improving moods. The gut microbiome interacts with the brain through the inflammatory, neural, and hormone signaling pathways. Proper functioning of the gut microbiome enhances positive interaction with the brain. Reduced effectiveness of the gut microbiome causes alterations that impact the brain leading to mental health problems such as depression. An unhealthy gut microbiome is associated with a diet low in fiber and high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and artificial sweeteners.

Furthermore, literature support that a balanced diet is important for the growth and health of the brain because the brain receives all the nutrients required to support its optimal functioning. Hence, a varied diet is encouraged to ensure the brain gets all the necessary elements. Likewise, studies shows that when people are tired, they tend to go for high-carb, fat products, and high-sugar foods, but these can impact digestion, causing feelings of sluggishness because they impact digestion. In addition, the effect of these foods includes brain fog, which impairs mental clarity, leading to irritability, negative mood, anxiety, and low mental focus. Similarly, some people tend to eat too much when stressed, known as “comfort eating,” which is emotional eating rather than eating to quench hunger. Comfort eating is harmful to mental health because it encourages junk eating of foods high in saturated fats and refined sugars. This occurs because mood dictates cravings and motivation to take certain foods. Negative mood motivates the choice of unhealthy foods, overeating, overeating, and addiction to certain foods, which further worsen the mood and cause mental distress (Leeds et al., 2020).

A study contributing to the evidence on the link between mental health and food shows the impact of food on mental health conditions. For instance, the study connects nutritional deficiency to mental sanity (Constantin & Fonseca, 2020). According to Constantin and Fonseca (2020), specific nutrients include omega-3 fatty oils, amino acids, B vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are used for the production of neurotransmitters dopamine from tyrosine and serotonin from tryptophan. The neurotransmitters are responsible for a variety of functions in the brain, including the regulation of mood and overall psychological well-being. Additionally, Schweren and Larsson (2021) link the quality of diet to neuroticism. The study involving 12,008 individuals showed a weak correlation between diet quality and neuroticism, which further reiterates the importance of diet in mood functioning including irritability, anger, emotional instability, and self-consciousness (Schweren & Larsson, 2021).

Why Proper Nutrition is Important for mental Health of Aging Population

Older adults experience cognitive decline alongside the physical and biological challenges associated with aging. Increasing evidence links proper nutrition to improved cognitive functioning in older adults. For instance, older adults are prone to psychological distress because of reduced functioning, disease comorbidities, and other life stressors. According to Grønning et al. (2018), an appropriate diet can alleviate psychological distress in old people, as the study links reduced psychological distress and well-being to diet. High quality diet is also associated with lesser depressive symptoms in older adults. The prevalence of depression in geriatric population is two times higher than the mainstream population, causing impairment in health, social, and physical functioning.

To put the connection between diet and the well-being of older adults is put into context by a comparative study of older adults in the Ivory Coast and Japan. The Japanese cohort had a higher life expectancy because of financial capabilities that allowed them access to a proper diet compared to the Ivory Coast cohort (Bonfoh, 2022). In Japan, seniors have access to a pension, insurance income, and proper medical treatment; hence, they can easily afford proper nutrition. Moreover, the respondents noted that they received education on a diet from a young age, leading to a tendency to observe proper nutrition. On the other hand, the respondents from Ivory Coast depend on social networks and children’s support for survival (Bonfoh, 2022). Thus, access to proper nutrition becomes a challenge due to financial constraints. The dietary practices among the elders from Japan were substituting red meat with healthy protein or vegetables, observing portions, and diversifying the diet to meet various nutritional requirements. In contrast, elders from Ivory Coast take what is taken by the whole family, often an imbalanced diet constituting little protein and high-energy staple food. In the end, Japan’s aging population has a longer life because of less distress and improved mental health well-being compared to its counterparts in Ivory Coast.

Proper diet is important for the geriatric population for better cognitive functioning. This is critical because of the functioning decline that increases the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease among other conditions related to cognitive impairment. A review of studies provides substantial links between proper diet and improved cognitive functioning. According to Klimova et al. (2020), healthy diet components enhance cognitive functioning while single nutrients have a positive impact on various domains of the brain, such as memory boost. According to Wesselman et al. (2021), a Mediterranean diet is associated with better memory and other cognitive functioning in older adults. Klimova et al. (2020) also revealed that having a variety of nutrients in the diet and adherence to a proper diet improves cognitive outcomes for older adults. The results indicate that creating a personalized diet for elderly persons with specific nutrients proven to enhance cognitive functioning can contribute to a delay in cognitive decline in older adults (Klimova et al., 2020). Furthermore, combining diet with lifestyle modifiable factors improves the quality of life for older adults.

Regarding the specific nutrients required for improved cognitive functioning in older adults, Melzer et al. (2021) show that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory and oxidants is good for brain functioning. The foods rich in these nutritional components include nuts, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and fish, which can reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease. Another component directly linked with improved cognitive performance in older adults is Vitamin K, while depletion in vitamin K is associated with reduced amount of grey matter in the hypothalamus (Alisi et al., 2019). Moreover, due to proper diet, older adults experience improved cognition in multiple domains. For example, a Mediterranean was shown to reduce global cognitive decline by 6-7%. Other components are visuospatial, memory, language, cognitive flexibility and processing speed.

Foods to include in diet of an older adult

Limited intake of fats and preference for healthy fats such as the once derived from nuts, avocados, fish, seeds, milk, and eggs, as well as olive oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, among others. Secondly, older people should consider diet containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains. These foods contain vitamins and minerals needed for healthy brain growth and functioning. Fruits and vegetables and also probiotic are essential for good gut health, an indicator of overall mental health. For example, Vitamin K is associated with improved cognitive functioning. Another highly encouraged nutrient for the aging population is protein, which should be part of every meal. Proteins have amino acids, which are important for mood regulation.

Foods to avoid

Old people should avoid foods with trans-fat, which is found in unsaturated fats and processed foods. These fats are associated with poor mood regulation. The second group of foods to be avoided by the aging population are caffeinated drinks, which include tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and cola.

Barriers to Proper Nutrition in Aging Population

A survey of older adults reveals several issues influencing food choice and nutrition in older adults. According to the results, four main themes determined food choice: food access, age-related changes to appetite, relationship with food, and cooking alone. For example, the aging process causes reduced smell acuity and taste, causing changes to the appetite. Moreover, older adults tend to have multiple health conditions and take medicines that may further reduce smell acuity, impacting the choice of diet (Klimova et al., 2020 ). These elements are barriers to healthy nutrition needed by older adults for improved mental functioning. Another barrier that affects food choice and nutrition in older adults is oral functioning due to reduced chewing efficacy. Certain foods that are hard to chew are not preferred, reducing the nutritional varieties available to older adults.

Another barrier to nutrition for the aging population is a lack of knowledge. Most older adults have no formal understanding of the impact of food/diet on their health. To incorporate healthy diets and attain lifestyle changes, older adults need to have adequate understanding of the different nutrients that can improve outcomes for the elderly populations. Financial constraint is another barrier that influences diet choices in aging adults (Khanna, 2022). The aging adults may know the importance of proper nutrition to their health outcomes but are restrained by a lack of finances to buy a variety of nutritional elements. For example, elderly people from low socioeconomic backgrounds or poor communities may not have the finances to sustain a proper nutritionally constituted diet.


  • The link between proper nutrition and better mental health outcomes is clear; however, there is no framework for diet tailored for the aging population. Thus, the first recommendation is to develop a framework for dietary plan for older adults that they can implement to optimize mental health outcomes.
  • The second recommendation is to improve the integration of nutrition in the treatment plan for older adults, by creating a personalized diet plan targeting the risks one is exposed to, such as depression.
  • Individuals with mental health problems can adopt healthy diet to improve their nutritional intake, leading to positive mental well-being.
  • Another recommendation critical to maintaining proper nutrition is to unlearn cultural norms that promote poor nutritional intake and adopt healthier food choices.


Nutrition in populations has become an important area of focus because of its contribution healing, positive health outcomes, and physical and mental well-being. In the aging population, nutrition is essential to counter age-related changes such as cognitive decline. Cognitive decline is one of the common impacts of aging, exposing seniors to mental health issues and other impairments. However, research shows that proper nutrition has positive impacts on cognitive functioning. Despite the overwhelming information on the benefits of proper nutrition on mental health, changing dietary habits is the most difficult of human behaviors. Food habits and behaviour are acquired at a tender age and develop with one as one transitions through the life course. Hence, different cultures have different food habits influencing the members’ choice of food and nutritional intake. Older adults need to be educated on the value of diet and mental health outcomes to enable them to initiate lifestyle changes with a proper diet to enhance outcomes.


Alisi, L., Cao, R., De Angelis, C., Cafolla, A., Caramia, F., Cartocci, G., . . . Fiorelli, M. (2019). The Relationships Between Vitamin K and Cognition: A Review of Current Evidence. Front Neurol, 10, 239. https://doi.10.3389/fneur.2019.00239.

Bonfoh, B. (2022). Healthy Aging: Comparative Analysis of Local Perception and Diet in Two Health Districts of Côte d’Ivoire and Japan. Sec.Interventions in Aging,

Chakona, G., & Shackleton, C. (2019). Food Taboos and Cultural Beliefs Influence Food Choice and Dietary Preferences among Pregnant Women in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Nutrients. , 11(11):2668. https://doi.10.3390/nu11112668.

Constantin, E.-T., & Fonseca, S. (2020). The effect of food on mental health. Revista Internacional de Educação Saúde e Ambiente, 3(2),1-17. https://doi.10.37334/riesa.v3i2.36.

Dao, M., Thiron, S., Messer, E., Sergeant, C., Sévigné, A., Huart, C., . . . Roberts, S. (2020). Cultural Influences on the Regulation of Energy Intake and Obesity: A Qualitative Study Comparing Food Customs and Attitudes to Eating in Adults from France and the United States. Nutrients, 13(1):63. https://doi.10.3390/nu13010063. .

Firth, J., Gangwisch, J., Borsini, A., Wootton, R., & Mayer, E. (2020). Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental well-being? BMJ, 369:m2382. (Published 29 June 2020).

Grønning, K., Espnes, G., & Nguyen, C. (2018). Psychological distress in elderly people is associated with diet, well-being, health status, social support and physical functioning- a HUNT3 study. BMC Geriatr, 18, 205.

Khanna, S. K. (2022). Cultural Influences on Food and Dietary Diversity. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 61:3, 271-272. https://doi.10.1080/03670244.2022.2071263 .

Klimova, B., Dziuba, S., & Cierniak-Emerych, A. (2020 ). The Effect of Healthy Diet on Cognitive Performance Among Healthy Seniors – A Mini Review. Front Hum Neurosci, 14, 325. https://doi.10.3389/fnhum.2020.00325.

Leeds, J., Keith, R., & Woloshynowych, M. (2020). Food and Mood: Exploring the determinants of food choices and the effects of food consumption on mood among women in Inner London. World Nutrition, 1(1), 68-96. https://doi.10.26596/wn.202011168-96.

Melzer, T., Manosso, L., Yau, S., Gil-Mohapel, J., & Brocardo, P. (2021). In Pursuit of Healthy Aging: Effects of Nutrition on Brain Function. Int J Mol Sci, 22(9):5026. doi: 10.3390/ijms22095026. .

Mental Health Foundation. (2022). How are diet and mental health linked? Retrieved from Mental Health Foundation – United Kingdom:

Monterrosa, E. C., Frongillo, E. A., Drewnowski, A., de Pee, S., & Vandevijvere, S. (2020). Sociocultural Influences on Food Choices and Implications for Sustainable Healthy Diets. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 41(2_suppl), 59S-73S.

Mora, N., & Golden, S. (2017). Understanding Cultural Influences on Dietary Habits in Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latino Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Review of Current Literature and Future Directions. Curr Diab Rep , 17, 126.

Reddy, S., & Anitha, M. (2015). Culture and its Influence on Nutrition and Oral Health. Biomed Pharmacol J , 8.

Salari-Moghaddam, A., Saneei, P., L. B., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2019). Glycemic index, glycemic load, and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr, 73(3):356-365. doi: 10.1038/s41430-018-0258-z.

Schweren, L. J., & Larsson, H. (2021). Diet quality, stress and common mental health problems: A cohort study of 121,008 adults. Clinical Nutrition, 40(3), 901-906,

Wesselman, L., van Lent, D., & Schröder, A. (2021). Dietary patterns are related to cognitive functioning in elderly enriched with individuals at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Eur J Nutr , 60, 849–860.


Course Description:

This course introduces the student to evidence-based knowledge on the interaction between nutrition, behavior, and mental health. Various theoretical perspectives on nutrition and health-related behavior change will be introduced. Key behavioral nutrients are identified and the current research on how these nutrients interact with brain functioning and mental health will be assessed. Ethical issues in applying sound scientific knowledge on behavioral nutrition to diverse gender, ethno-cultural, and age groups will also be addressed.
Learning Outcomes:

Explain the impact of behavioral nutrition on physical and mental health.
Evaluate theories and concepts in behavioral nutrition.
Analyze peer-reviewed research in the field of behavioral nutrition.
Expose myths and misinformation in behavioral nutrition.
Assess the role of ethics and diversity in behavioral nutrition through empirical findings.
Construct proposals for healthy nutrition to support positive physical and mental health outcomes for different populations.

Course Concepts:

Behavioral Nutrition Scientific and Pseudo-Scientific Information
Theoretical Perspectives on Behavioral Nutrition
Cultural Influences on Nutrition-Related Behaviors
Nutritional Health and Addiction
Misinformation and Myths on Behavioral Nutrition
Nutritional Needs Across the Lifespan

Course Outline:
Section 1 – Understanding Behavioral Nutrition

Week 1 – Assignment 1: Demonstrate Your Knowledge About Behavioral Nutrition (7 points)

Week 2 – Assignment: Evaluate the Research of Nutrients on Brain/Nervous System Functioning (14 points)

Week 3 – Assignment: Discuss Theoretical Perspectives on Nutritional Habits (7 points)

Section 2 – Evaluating Research in Behavioral Nutrition

Week 4 – Assignment: Analyze a Peer-Reviewed Empirical Study (14 points)

Week 5 – Assignment: Evaluate Websites for Myths/Misinformation (7 points)
Section 3 – Behavioral Nutrition in the Community

Week 6 – Assignment: Prepare a Presentation Educating a Target Group About Food Choices (14 points)

Week 7 – Assignment: Prepare a Lecture Examining Cultural Influences on Behavioral Nutrition (7 points)

Week 8 – Assignment: Signature Assignment: Design a Workshop Proposal (23 points)
Week 1 – Assignment: Demonstrate Your Knowledge About Behavioral Nutrition
This week, you have reviewed some examples of how good nutrition, behavior, and mental health are interconnected. For this assignment, you will reflect on your own food choices considering what you’ve learned this week. Track your meals (and snacks!) for three days and respond to the following questions:

• What good choices are you making, and why are they good for you?
• Do you notice any areas for improvement, based on what you’ve learned?
• How did you learn about your food choices? Think about who or what influenced your nutritional choices

Length: 1-2 pages

References: Include a minimum of 3 scholarly resources. You may use any of this week’s readings, or use the university library system to find other resources; however, cite your sources.
Your reflection should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect graduate-level writing and APA standards. Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

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