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Book Review: Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health

As the old phrase goes, “you are what you eat.” Following a recovery from autoimmune disease, thyroid disorder, and several other health issues, I learned the hard way that what you put into your body has a direct impact on each and every cell. In the comprehensive work, Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health: A Complete Guide to the Food-Mood Connection, Leslie Korn, PhD, explains not only why the food we eat has the specific impact it does, but also how to address a client’s specific mental health challenges through prescriptive diet and nutrition.

For the student or professional clinician, Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health is an exhaustive guide to understanding, prescribing and treating mental health through nutrition; for the lay reader recovering from chronic illness, this book is an invaluable resource that answered more questions than I realized I had.

Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health begins with a scientific explanation of the “food-mood” connection, as well as examples of the way this connection impacts the health of the patient, how the standard American diet versus traditional diets affect mental health, and the vital role gut health plays in inflammation levels. The author emphasizes the link between digestive disorders and mental distress, both of which can be positively impacted by the nutritional therapy recommended in later chapters and the appendices.

The text is sprinkled with first-hand case studies and samples of client/patient conversations that demonstrate the recommended methodology for nutritional therapy. This component is further strengthened by a chapter dedicated to how to actively listen to patients and assess them with accuracy and sensitivity. As a further aid to the student/clinician, the book details common mental health issues caused by nutritional deficiencies, how they are diagnosed and treated, and how they respond to nutritional therapies.

Perhaps the most beneficial component that sets the book apart and makes it accessible to the student, clinician, and lay reader alike is the breakdown of individual nutritional essentials and the role they play in the day-by-day treatment plan for mental health. Dr. Korn goes into detail from the macro-nutrient approach down to the consistent benefits of supplemental therapy on vitamin and mineral levels. In addition, the focus on food sensitivities and the latest conclusions on the gut-brain connection demonstrates the book’s up-to-date research, while application tools provide a valuable resource for clinicians.

While I cannot comment on the validity of the book from the perspective of a psychiatric or counseling professional, I can say that as a patient who suffered from the nutritional deficiencies and medical issues as well as the mental health concerns described, I would have greatly benefited from this book during my illness. Dr. Korn breaks the nutritional foundation down in such a way that I can see the contributing factors to my own illness, as well as the prescribed nutritional therapy and supplements that would have helped alleviate my illness.

As compared to other texts on the connection between the gut, proper nutrition and mental health, Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health is written in a more accessible tone for those without an extensive background in medicine and psychology; it also strikes me as a more beneficial resource due to the appendices, which are packed with recipes, charts of nutrients and their impacts, and the detailed examples of treatment plans that show the harmony of nutritional therapy when treating everything from seasonal affective disorder to schizophrenia.

After finishing the book, I found myself wanting more information on the role of organic produce, pesticides, preservatives and other additives on gut and mental health, as I have heard other research studies that address those same issues. A section on these connections and a summary of the research completed would strengthen an already stellar resource.

Regardless of personal experience or background, Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health offers a complete and highly usable guide to the landscape of nutrition and the mind-body connection that the student, clinician and patient alike can connect to and learn from.

Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health: A Complete Guide to the Food-Mood Connection

W. Norton & Company, January 11, 2016

Hardcover, 464 Pages


Book Review: Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health

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Bethany Duarte

APA Reference
Duarte, B. (2016). Book Review: Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Apr 2016
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Apr 2016
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