We all know that a nutritious meal can help us feel better — both physically and mentally (especially when enjoyed with friends and family).

However, is it true that a specific food or nutrient can benefit our mental health? Does eating more blueberries lessen anxiety, or will eating a candy bar worsen depression? 

I asked Dr. Peter Clark, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University (ISU), to answer questions about the connection between food and mental health.

Clark leads ISU’s Laboratory of Behavioral and Nutrition Neuroscience, where researchers investigate the impact of nutrition and physical activity on brain cognition and mental health.

Clark discussed the connection between food and our mood — and why dieting for external weight loss likely won’t improve our internal struggles. (Editor’s note: The Q&A was edited for length and clarity.)

Q  How can the food we eat impact our mental health?

This is a complicated question ...