C.R. writes:  I got a pretty annoyed phone call from a friend, a former macrobiotic turned raw foodist: “I read Therapy Soup yesterday. How could you bake Gabriel a chocolate cake when you know it’s really bad for him?” She called me irresponsible and negligent. She’s right, sort of.

Here’s my point of view: Like yesterday’s NY Times article and countless others say, poor nutrition is a risk factor for a variety of illnesses and this includes mental illnesses. I personally believe we have to look at any disease from a holistic point of view – how we experience and treat mind, body, and soul is important to the wellbeing of mind, body, and soul. Seems obvious to me.

There have been some studies, (this for example) that suggest specific nutrients may play roles in mental health. There have been studies done that link deficiencies or even food allergies or intolerances (like this one about the possible link between gluten intolerance and schizophrenia). Some fairly credible sources link autism and food allergies. I happen believe this all to be true, but I have no solid evidence to go on, just my personal experience.

Richard, too has some experience from knowing and observing thousands of patients over the years. Some mental health and addiction patients who eat better find that their symptoms are  milder.

It is certainly true that blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and other nutrition-related physiological ailments often produce emotional symptoms. Hypoglycemics and diabetics can feel irritable or depressed depending on the insulin and/or blood sugar levels; those with high blood pressure can feel dizzy and disconnected or very stressed; and so on. Anxiety and mood swings can follow binges on coffee and donuts or cola and cake.

I guess what I am really trying to say is: I agree that cake was not a good choice, sort of! Fat and flour-filled chocolate cake is probably not a healthy choice in general, let alone if you have a mental or physical illness.

But, I also know that I cannot dictate to others what to eat. And I also know that sometimes life’s little pleasures, such as homemade chocolate cake, are small comforts, especially for people who don’t have a home and rarely get a homemade meal. Especially for someone who lives on white-bread sandwiches and candy.

A homemade cake (made with 100 percent whole wheat flour and sweetened with brown rice syrup and agave, by the way) is a step up from our friend’s regular fare. (I have to admit I don’t know if Gabriel has a specific food intolerance, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer was “yes.”)

I rely on those who taught that “a chocolate chip cookie baked with love is healthier for the mind, body, and soul than a bowl of organic vegetables served with hate.”