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The Ultimate Guide to Food and Mental Health

Most of you have probably heard the saying “you are what you eat”. Well, believe it or not, that saying holds a lot of truth to it. When we eat better, we feel better. Food and mental health go hand in hand, and a healthy diet not only impacts our physical health, but it also impacts our mental health. The field of nutritional psychiatry has increasingly found that the food we consume affects our mood and emotions. Consuming foods that are nourishing and that don’t contain added fat, sugar, or sodium can make you feel more radiant and boost your self-esteem.

If you’re wondering exactly how food impacts how you feel, we can help you understand the science behind it. Read on to learn more about how food guides emotions and what to eat for a happy, healthy life.

The Connection Between Food and Mental Health

According to the Psychiatric Times, the connection between food and mental health stems from the vagus nerve, the nerve that connects the gut and the brain. The neurons that line our gastrointestinal tract are impacted by good bacteria in our gut, which helps limit inflammation, helps us absorb the nutrients we need, and opens neural pathways between the gut and the brain.

Harvard Health states that research has shown the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who consume a traditional diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, and protein, compared to those who eat a “Western” diet, which contains a lot of processed foods.

The more nutritious and unprocessed foods we consume, the healthier our gut is. The Good bacteria in our gut protects against pathogens, improves our immune system, and regulates the nervous system. This influences our serotonin levels and affects our mood and energy levels.

Top 10 Foods for Mental Health

When planning out what you should eat daily, it is important to focus on foods that will make you feel good and give you energy. Here are the top ten foods for mental health wellness:

1. Salmon: Salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and increase memory. Salmon also carries high amounts of vitamin D, which has been linked to lower depression rates.

2. Chicken: Like turkey, chicken contains the amino acid tryptophan. This is proven to improve your memory and mood and help fight depression.

3. Dark Leafy Greens: Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, contain the following nutrients that support mental health and brain health:

  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

4. Avocados: Avocados are rich in folate and Vitamin K. This improves memory, concentration, and brain function.

5. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, a beneficial phytonutrient. This fights against brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's, and improves memory, logic, and attention.

6. Yogurt: Yogurt contains billions of probiotics that improve both physical and mental health. Not only does it help with digestion, but it helps reduce anxiety and depression. Yogurt also contains potassium and magnesium, which improve brain function.

7. Berries: Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are an excellent source of antioxidants that improve mental health and treat depression. Antioxidants repair cells and prevent illness.

8. Whole Grains: Whole grains, such as beans, rice, and oats, contain complex carbohydrates that our body uses to produce energy. Whole grains also help the brain absorb the amino acid tryptophan, which helps reduce anxiety or depression.

9. Walnuts: Similar to salmon, walnuts contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that improve brain health. Without the chief omega, disorders like depression, anxiety, and ADHD can occur.

10. Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate’s cocoa content contains high levels of flavonoids, a beneficial antioxidant. It boosts memory, attention, and mood. While being consumed in moderation, dark chocolate provides positive mental health benefits.

Even though there are many more healthy options out there, these top ten nutritious foods significantly enhance mood and improve overall brain function, allowing you to live your best life.

The connection between food and mental health is so powerful because it has the ability to reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety. Understanding how food affects your mood will lead you on the path of a successful wellness journey.

To set up a personalized plan with support from a professional nutrition coach or learn more about the link between food and mental health, click here today!

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