How Diet Affects Mental Health

Are you wondering about simple ways to reduce your feelings of anxiety and depression? If so, you’re not alone. Mental health issues are extremely common in today’s high-stress world, but many people prefer natural solutions that are easy to implement. Fortunately, improving your diet can have a direct and positive impact on your overall state of well-being.

The Scientific Link Between Diet and Mental Health

Gut bacteria, also known as microbes, induce the production of hormones that have a direct impact on feelings of happiness and anxiety. The health and balance of these bacteria contribute to our overall mental well-being. For instance, some of these bacteria produce serotonin, a hormone that stabilizes our moods.

On the other hand, undesirable conditions in the digestive tract may cause the production of inflammatory chemicals. Chronic, ongoing inflammation can increase the risk of depression and brain disorders.

What to Eat to Improve Mental Well-Being

There are many foods you can add to your diet to improve your psychiatric health. Consider trying some of these nutritional superstars.

High Protein Foods

Protein enables the production of serotonin: the hormone that improves mood. Protein also helps eliminate harmful bacteria in our guts. It’s important to choose lean proteins, because proteins high in saturated fats may cancel out any positive effects. Poultry, fish, beans, lentils, peas, edamame, and nuts are all good sources of lean protein.

High Fiber Foods

Adequate fiber intake reduces depressive symptoms and may also maintain memory as we grow older. To increase your fiber intake, include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and nuts.


Probiotics are healthy bacteria that balance the microbes in your digestive tract. Several foods are rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha.


Prebiotics are important because they feed the probiotics in your digestive tract. Fruits and vegetables are high in prebiotics, especially blueberries, strawberries, apples, and artichokes. Extra-virgin olive oil and oats are also prebiotic-rich.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s have been shown to improve mental clarity and increase feelings of calmness.  They occur naturally in salmon, soybeans, flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, and kale improve your digestive health by reducing inflammation and regenerating the digestive tract lining. These vegetables help optimize the link between food and mood.

What to Avoid Eating

It’s equally important to avoid foods that have a negative effect on your mental state. These foods and additives should be limited.

Processed Foods and Artificial Sweeteners

Processed foods cause the bad bacteria in your digestive tract to flourish, which may result in negative effects on your mental well-being. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose may disrupt the balance of healthy gut bacteria. Limit these sugar substitutes in your diet.

Fried Foods

Often, fried foods are cooked in oils that are high in unhealthy fats. These fats reduce healthy bacteria as your gut works in overdrive to digest the heavy fat content.


It’s important to cut back on alcohol. Though it may seem harmless to have a few drinks to relax or feel better, consistent alcohol consumption will make you feel even more depressed or anxious in the long run.

Consider changing your diet in these ways for two weeks, and then assess how you feel. There’s a good chance you’ll feel noticeably better. It’s likely you could also benefit from talking to a psychiatric specialist about your concerns. Take the first step and call us today at Psychiatry Unplugged to set up an appointment.

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