NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 22, 2023 — Newport Healthcare, a national network of evidence-based treatment programs for teens and young adults with mental health disorders, is commemorating National Nutrition Month with a reminder of the importance of healthy nutrition and its effects on one’s mental health. With 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experiencing a mental health disorder each year, and 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses beginning by age 14, Newport provides some food for thought.
“Nutrition is the foundation for mental health,” says Annaliese DiFabbio, Registered Dietitian for Newport Healthcare. “Eating nutritious foods helps us think more clearly, feel more alert, and improve attention and concentration, integral pieces of mental wellness. If we can promote healthy nutrition at a young age, the positive effects can be lifelong.”
The proof is in the science: our gastrointestinal tracts are home to billions of bacteria that influence the production of chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, carrying messages from the gut to the brain. When we eat nutritionally dense, vitamin-rich food, we promote the growth of “good” bacteria, positively affecting the production of these chemicals. When production is optimal, our brains receive the positive messages, and we feel better. Similarly, when we eat an unbalanced diet, production goes awry, and so could our mental wellness. That is why it is crucial to incorporate a variety of foods into our diet.
For Newport Healthcare, promoting balanced nutrition for optimal mental wellness is part of daily life. “Healthy foods provide our clients’ brains with the fuel needed to get the most out of therapy, enhancing their likelihood of treatment success now and sustained results down the road,” says Newport’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Barbara Nosal.
Across its nationwide network of mental health treatment programs, Newport’s dieticians work with clients to improve their relationship with food by first providing evidence-based nutrition education. Clients receive tailored nutrition counseling sessions and meet in educational nutrition groups. They learn about topics such as macro and micronutrients, metabolism, and mindful eating. Through education and gentle guidance, dieticians foster kindness and flexibility in relationship to food, empowering clients to care for their nutritional needs and to rediscover the mental and physical joy that comes with being well nourished.
Newport emphasizes balance, variety, and moderation in its dietary framework, with a personalized approach that acknowledges the nuances faced by many young people who struggle with disordered eating patterns and negative body image issues. As a result, clients learn the importance of healthy nutrition beyond physical benefits, and are able to apply their learned skills and knowledge during mealtimes.
Additionally, Newport embraces the values of harvesting food through gardens, cooking meals together, connecting with one another around the dining table, and grateful, mindful eating.
“Helping clients understand the importance of healthy nutrition—how fueling the body can fuel the mind—is one of the many ways we can positively and powerfully affect lives,” says DiFabbio.
About Newport Healthcare
Newport Healthcare is the nation’s leading provider of evidence-based mental health treatment for youth, young adults, and families. Comprised of Newport Academy, Newport Institute, Center for Families, and PrairieCare, its full continuum of care includes psychiatric inpatient services, residential services, partial hospitalization programs (PHP), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and virtual programs. Newport’s family-centered, integrated approach fosters sustainable healing from a foundation of compassionate care, clinical expertise, and unconditional love. With a commitment to advocacy, Newport is creating a movement to shift our mental health culture from awareness to action, with the primary mission to empower lives and restore families.