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Talking to Justin Bethoney About The Mental Wellness Diet

Last Updated on June 25, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Justin Bethoney About The Mental Wellness Diet

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Author Justin Bethoney recently came to our podcast to discuss a topic that is very important to us: the relationship between food and mental health.

Bethoney’s new book, The Mental Wellness Diet: Ancient Wisdom Evolving Science — Modern Day Options, provides tools for people to transition into a healthier brain and body and safely reduce medication use.

Bethoney, an author and psychiatric nurse, graduated from the nurse practitioner program at Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions in 2011. After initially prescribing medications without questioning this country’s overuse of meds, Bethoney began searching for the underlying roots of illness by learning more about the connections between the mind and body and between nutrition and mental health. Now a leading proponent in the field of functional medicine, Bethoney compiled lessons from his journey into his new book.

On the Alternative to Meds Center podcast, Justin Bethoney expanded on the topics found in his book. Many drugs are overprescribed, he says, giving Adderall as an example. The drug that acts as a stimulant is treated as a “life-saving medication” when many users could function well enough without it. The over-prescription of Adderall, he says, has replaced taking the time needed to talk with the individual and find better, safer solutions.

Could Diet be an Overlooked Factor in Mental Wellness?
mental wellness diet
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Anxiety, depression, and ADHD can often be better managed using diet for mental wellness. That’s good news for people who take the time to explore the benefits of reducing medication use. Justin Bethoney says many of his patients “graduate” from needing medications.

“We work conservatively, take it step by step, and we lower the medications,” he says. “We try to pick a time to reduce the medications that is good. Not a lot of med changes before the holidays.”

What Is The Mental Wellness Diet?

Justin Bethoney’s mental wellness diet is a comprehensive guide to implement changes to the diet to improve mental wellness. Proper diet can reduce the symptoms that are too often medicated without more in-depth exploration for root causes, such as nutrient deficits, blood sugar issues, compromised gut health, and countless other environmental factors.

Millions of Americans struggle with symptoms of mental illness, whether they are diagnosed or not. According to NAMI, one in five adults in this country experience symptoms of a mental health illness at least once a year.1 Worse, those who are diagnosed may not have adequate treatment.

However, symptoms may be due, in part, to the way we eat and the environments we live in. Experts like Justin Bethoney posit that many people do not receive many of the types of stimulation they need. In addition, the modern-day diet is full of processed foods that lack real nutritional value. Many of these red flags are discussed at length in Bethoney’s book.

Everyday experiences for many Americans involve:
  • Eating high-calorie foods
  • Ignoring healthy, nutritional foods
  • Psychological stress that pushes the brain to the limit
  • Lack of community support
  • Over-sanitation
  • Environmental toxicity

The Mental Wellness Diet considers the types of environments our ancestors lived in and begs questions about our often unhealthy relationship with food. With a better awareness of which types of food are better for our brains and what eating habits serve unhealthy addictions, Justin Bethoney mentions that following the advice in his new book can help anyone feel better and reduce their reliance on prescription medications.

The Benefits of Glycine

Bethoney’s website explores the benefits of an important amino acid, Glycine that plays several critical roles in promoting wellness. Glycine is a simple and small amino acid that many people do not ingest in sufficient quantities. Justin Bethoney calls Glycine the body’s “peacekeeper.”

Glycine helps the body:
  • Detoxify
  • Combat inflammation
  • Speed up digestion
  • Boost energy
  • Reduce achy joints
  • Reduce wrinkles

Glycine helps the body digest fat by helping with the formation of bile salts that break down fat into small particles so they can be absorbed by the body. Inadequate bile salts can lead to nutritional issues and reduced availability of fat-soluble vitamins. Glycine is also critical for the creation of creatine, which supports the energy supply of cells and brain cells. The availability of creatine is important in designing a diet for mental wellness, especially when our brains are working hard and require an extra boost of energy.2

The Benefits of Glutathione in the Diet for Mental Wellness

Glycine also plays a crucial role as a building block for glutathione, which is commonly known as our body’s master antioxidant. While many antioxidants can only be obtained through food, glutathione can be made in our bodies. Antioxidants circulate in the body and neutralize free radicals that threaten healthy cells. Without the availability of antioxidants to fight free radicals, our bodies are much more prone to weight gain, fatigue, premature aging, and aches and pains.

This tiny but mighty amino acid also helps maintain our immune system by reducing inflammation. While inflammation is a natural reaction to an invading threat, swelling can often cause damage to the body. Having a sufficient supply of glutathione in your body can reduce the unintended consequences of inflammation. This can also limit the circulation of inflammatory messengers (cytokines). Cytokines can create even higher levels of inflammation than the body would normally experience.3

Tips for Boosting Glutathione and Glycine

Tips for Boosting Glutathione and Glycine

Dr. Bethoney suggests adding powdered collagen peptides to your smoothies, oatmeal, or coffee. Due to the natural effects of collagen, your joints may even feel better over time.

Another dietary source for these amino acids is bone broth. You can make this at home by heating water, bones, meat, vegetables, and herbs over low heat for 24 to 48 hours. This releases collagen found in the meat and connective tissue. Boiling also releases minerals found in the marrow. You can also buy pre-made bone broth at grocery stores. It’s a delicious way to improve mental wellness through diet changes.

Benefits of Omega-3 for ADHD

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in eggs, nuts, seeds, salmon, and other foods. The fatty acid is considered an essential fatty acid due to the important role it plays in the body. For children, fatty acids are particularly important because they are the building blocks for the cells in our brains called neurons. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is generally lacking in these important fatty acids, since many food items like rice, chips, and carbs provide calories but low levels of important nutrients.

Benefits of Omega-3 for ADHD

Rising rates of mental illness and neurodivergent symptoms are often attributed partly to diet, and researchers believe this link is progressing.5 Many things have to go right as the brain develops, and a lack of nutrition can lead an otherwise healthy individual to develop neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD. It’s important to note that there are many factors that can contribute to the development of ADHD, including genetics, but a poor diet that is high in sugar and low in essential fatty acids is a critical risk factor.

Other Foods Linked to Better Brain Function

Beyond Omega 3 fatty acids, glutathione, and glycine, researchers have found other foods and drinks that can help with brain health, which can help with overall mental health problems. Many of these foods help the cardiovascular system stay strong, indicating that there are multiple benefits to increasing your intake of vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods.5

Leafy Vegetables

Vegetables are well known to be super healthy, but not all veggies are equal. Certain leafy green vegetables have the types of nutrients and vitamins (vitamin K, lutein, folate, beta carotene) that your brain needs to stay healthy.

Examples of these plants include:
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Broccoli

Eating a plant-based diet can help slow cognitive decline, and the fiber leafy greens provide is also healthy for your GI tract.5

Leafy Vegetables

Fatty Fish

Saturated fats are a health problem for the heart and arteries. Healthy unsaturated fats, though, may play a positive role in slowing the onset of dementia. Fortunately, anyone can enjoy the benefits of eating fish just by eating fish twice a week. Look for options that are low in mercury, like salmon, cod, pollack, and light tuna.6

Berries and Flavonoids

The pigments that give berries their bright colors also help with memory and brain function. People who consume two or more services of blueberries and strawberries per week can potentially delay memory decline by 2.5 years.7

Health Benefits of Nuts

If you do not like eating fish, you can enjoy many of the health benefits of eating fish by consuming other foods high in omega-3, like walnuts, avocados, and flaxseeds. Nuts provide a healthy dose of nutrients, healthy fats, and oils. One specific type of nut, walnuts, may also improve memory.

Health Benefits of Nuts

Walnut consumption has been linked with improved cognitive function. One reason may be the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly one known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA also helps lower blood pressure and clear arteries. This can be a real benefit for both the brain and heart.8

The Importance of Maintaining Blood Glucose Levels

Blood sugar is another example of the benefits of modifying the diet for mental wellness. Justin Bethoney’s research into maintaining healthy blood sugar levels finds that prolonged periods of low blood sugar can have a negative impact on the brain and body. Initially, the body responds to low blood sugar by releasing epinephrine and cortisol. Those hormones provide short-term energy, but they can be unhealthy for the brain in large and sustained amounts. The hormones also interfere with sleep. Many people who lie awake at night are unable to sleep because they do not balance their body’s blood sugar levels.

Even when we are able to fall asleep after a day of having elevated epinephrine and cortisol levels, the sleep cycle may be broken at 3 a.m. Our bodies feel anxious for no apparent reason and blood sugar levels naturally drop during sleep because we are not eating. When those levels become critically low, the body has no choice but to release stress hormones. Two solutions are to eat throughout the day and to consume protein, fat, and fiber while reducing sugar intake.

Breakfast, Justin Bethoney says, should be a few hundred calories. Exercise and cardio can improve your metabolic health. Building muscles helps build up our metabolic reserve for when we are low on glucose. Eating foods that delay energy release can help you sustain your energy throughout the day. Even if you are not hungry in the morning, try eating a few eggs or at least a protein smoothie.

Learn More About the Benefits of Alternatives to Meds

The Mental Wellness Diet: Ancient Wisdom Evolving Science – Modern Day Options

Justin Bethoney’s The Mental Wellness Diet is an insightful and easy-to-read book that addresses many important topics that we regularly discuss on the Alternative to Meds Center podcast, and aligns with many of the core fundamentals of our program. We encourage all of our followers to order his book and consider some practical ways to apply his research into nutrition and mental health.

With a better understanding of the root causes of stress, SUD, and mental symptoms like anxiety, depression, and ADHD, people can take practical steps to address them. With strategies like improved nutrition, spa therapies, and holistic detoxification techniques, individuals reduce their reliance on prescription medications that often cause serious side effects and addiction.

At Alternative to Meds Center, our team of mental health professionals can customize a recovery plan that restores your wellness. To learn more, fill out our online form. One of our Admissions Representatives will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.


1. NAMI. (2023). Mental Health By the Numbers. NAMI. [cited 2024 June 25]

2. Razak, M., Begum, P., Viswanath, B., Rajagopal, S., (2017). Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2017, Article ID 1716701. [cited 2024 June 25]

3.  Pizzorno J. Glutathione! Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb;13(1):8-12. PMID: 26770075; PMCID: PMC4684116. [cited 2024 June 25]

4. Zhang, M. (2022, July). Progression of the relationship between diet and mental illnesses. In AIP Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2511, No. 1). AIP Publishing. [cited 2024 June 25]

5. Morris, M. C., Wang, Y., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., Dawson-Hughes, B., & Booth, S. L. (2018). Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline: Prospective study. Neurology, 90(3), e214-e222.[cited 2024 June 25]

6. Cole, G. M., Ma, Q. L., & Frautschy, S. A. (2009). Omega-3 fatty acids and dementia. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential fatty acids, 81(2-3), 213-221.  [cited 2024 June 25]

7. Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M. M., & Grodstein, F. (2012). Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of neurology, 72(1), 135–143. [cited 2024 June 25]

8. Pribis P, Bailey RN, Russell AA, et al. Effects of walnut consumption on cognitive performance in young adults. British Journal of Nutrition. 2012;107(9):1393-1401. doi:10.1017/S0007114511004302 [cited 2024 June 25

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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