The best and worst foods for your mental health

The foods you eat can either help or hurt your mental health


Physical fitness and nutritional habits are constant topics of discussion. Understandably, the food we eat gives our body the nutrients it needs to function. But our relationship with food goes much deeper than that. There are social and emotional connections that can influence how we feel mentally.

The foods you eat can either help or hurt your mental health. Dietary changes are normal and should not be feared as a threat to one’s sanity. What you eat can literally make or break you. Here are some foods that have been shown to improve mental health, as well as some that you should avoid.

Prioritizing your mental health also means making mealtimes a priority and putting an emphasis on foods that make you happy.

Sustenance for the mind: what to eat

Organic Foods

It is recommended that you consume a diet that is as nutrient-dense and balanced as possible. Whole foods will make up a sizable portion of that. Studies have found that a diet rich in whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, can decrease the risk of depression and anxiety. Eating nutritious foods can help you worry less, relax more, and experience greater happiness.

You’re eating for your body, but also your brain. Taking steps to improve enzyme function through diet can help keep your brain healthy and functioning optimally. If you’re unsure where to start, consider the Mediterranean diet, which can help improve memory, cognition and age-related brain atrophy. Following a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been linked to a lower risk of depression, according to a meta-analysis of relevant studies. The focus of this eating plan is on wholesome foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish.

Carbohydrates of the complex variety

There are a number of ways in which consuming complex carbohydrates benefits mental health. For starters, unlike sugar, they provide sustained energy throughout the day. Second, our mental health is inextricably linked to our physical health, which is helped by eating complex carbohydrates. Consider the importance of fibre. It is an important complex carbohydrate for digestive health. Did you know gut health controls serotonin production in the body? Ninety-five percent of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that functions as a mood stabiliser for the brain.

If you’re watching your weight, choose complex carbohydrates. They boost mental health and have a higher nutritional value than simple carbs like sugar. Complex carbohydrates can be found in plentiful supply in foods like brown rice and starchy vegetables.

Leafy greens

The nutritional value and adaptability of leafy greens make them a superfood. Quite a few of which are crucial to the proper functioning of our cerebral cortex. Magnesium, folate, vitamins D and B-12, and other vitamins and minerals can all be found in greens. Folate is a nutrient that the body uses to make dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Vitamin D aids the production of serotonin, which helps boost mood. The consumption of dark, leafy greens has also been associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline in old age.

Cuts of lean meat

Amino acids are derived from the protein we consume. Amino acids are included in the production of crucial neurotransmitters like dopamine. Dopamine imbalances can lead to mental health issues like depression, schizophrenia, and addiction. Lean proteins can also help maintain serotonin levels, which decreases the risk of mood disorders.Lean proteins to prioritise in your diet include skinless chicken, fish, eggs, Greek yoghurt and nuts.

The Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper brain and nervous system functioning. To put it another way: omega-3s are essential for brain development, function, and ageing. A deficiency can increase the risk of depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and schizophrenia.

Fish, nuts, leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil are all good sources of omega-3s. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements do not help treat depression when taken in addition to prescription antidepressants. Antidepressant effects from taking omega-3 supplements have not been observed.

Although, omega-3s may help with bipolar disorder. Taking omega-3s inhibits phospholipases in the CNS, which stops the production of manic-related prostaglandins. Mania can be triggered by taking too many omega-3s if you have bipolar disorder, so use caution. Supplements should never replace regular medication.

Negative effects of certain foods on mental health

Trans fats

It’s no secret that fast food isn’t the best choice for a healthy diet. High levels of trans fat in the diet have been linked to decreased serotonin production, inflammation, and an increased risk of depression. You don’t have to be totally disciplined when it comes to what you eat. When eaten in moderation, foods high in trans fats are not harmful to mental health. However, in general, they do more harm than good.

Simple carbohydrates

Refined sugars, as delicious as they are, are bad for your mental health. Energy from the sugary snacks is intense, but it’s followed by a severe decline. A 2019 study found that regularly eating added sugars can compromise your body’s ability to cope with stress. You can also increase your vulnerability to depression by eating a diet high in refined sugars. The excessive sugar causes a disruption in the normal chemical balance of the brain.

The process of overcoming sugar addiction is difficult. Research has shown that cutting back on sugar can produce withdrawal-like symptoms. It takes time to reduce sugar intake. Start by cutting down on the obvious sources — sodas, desserts and sweeteners. The next step is to consciously make healthier food selections.

Prepared meals

When we’re feeling down, the first thing we want is a quick and easy meal, like a frozen meal or a bowl of ramen. They offer a pick-me-up, but it never lasts. Sadly, the negative effects of eating processed foods on one’s body extend to one’s mind as well.

Anxiety and mild depression have both been connected to overeating highly processed foods. Inflammation in the body and the digestive tract caused by processed foods can also interfere with serotonin production.


For many people, caffeine is indispensable. To be clear, you can be healthy and drink caffeine, but it can have an impact on anxiety and stress levels.

Caffeine is a stimulant that helps us focus and be alert. This is achieved by increasing both heart rate and blood pressure, both of which can make you feel on edge or anxious. Watching your caffeine intake is essential if you live with anxiety. Instead of reaching for caffeine in the form of coffee or soda, try calming herbal teas. Teas have been shown to lower cortisol levels and help you feel relaxed.


For many people, alcohol and mental health are intertwined and are often used to ease symptoms. While alcohol can temporarily ease the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, heavy drinking actually makes the underlying conditions worse.

Remember that drinking alcohol or eating candy or fast food occasionally won’t compromise your mental health journey. The key is moderation. Being conscientious about what goes into your body can have a positive effect on your state of mind.