Here are the foods you should eat (and avoid) for good mental health

Eating well is not only important for your physical health. It also matters to your mind.

Diet is one of the biggest determinants of mental health, as it can make your symptoms less or worse. Do not worry; slight variations in what you eat are natural and will not harm your mental health. It’s the overall condition of your diet that counts. Here are the foods you should eat to improve your mental health and which you should avoid.

You can also prioritize your mental health by enhance meals and focusing on foods that make you happy.

Foods to eat that improve your mental health

whole foods

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As a general rule, it’s best to eat as many nutrient-dense, well-balanced foods diet as possible. Much of this will be whole foods. Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. Essentially you worry less, decrease tension and feel happier when you eat foods that are good for your body.

You eat for your body, but also for your brain. Focusing on foods that are beneficial for enzyme function ensures healthy brain function. If you don’t know where to start, consider the Mediterranean diet, which can help improve memory, cognition and age-related cerebral atrophy. A Systematic review found that adhering to a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can help reduce the risk of depression. This diet includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and seafood.

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are good for your mental health for several reasons. First, they give you energy without crashing like sugar. Second, complex carbohydrates help maintain a healthy body, which is directly related to our mental health. Take fiber, for example. It is a complex carbohydrate that is essential for a healthy gut. Did you know that gut health controls serotonin production in the body? That’s right, 95% serotonin is produced in the intestine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which works as a mood stabilizer for the brain.

Complex carbohydrates are the best choice for your diet. They improve mental health and have a higher nutritional value than simple carbohydrates like sugar. Brown rice and starchy vegetables are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.

Close-up of a person eating a salad rich in omega-3s.

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Leafy greens

Leafy greens are one of those foods that have it all: they’re versatile and packed with nutrients. Many of them are essential for our brain. Leafy greens contain vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, folate, Vitamin D and B-12. Nutrients like folate produce dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good and satisfied. Vitamin D helps the serotonin production, which helps improve mood. Eating leafy greens is also linked to slowed cognitive decline as we age.

lean protein

We get amino acids from protein we eat. Amino acids are included in the production of crucial neurotransmitters like dopamine. When there is a dopamine imbalance, disorders like depression, schizophrenia or addiction may occur. Lean protein can also help maintain serotonin levels, which decreases the risk of mood disorders.

lean protein favorites in your diet include skinless chicken, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt and nuts.

fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the good brain and functioning of the nervous system. Simply put; your brain cannot grow, function or age without omega-3s. A deficiency can increase the risk of depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and schizophrenia.

You can get the needed amount of omega-3s by eating fish, nuts, leafy greens, and extra virgin olive oil. Studies suggest than omega-3 supplements do not help treat depression when taken in addition to prescription antidepressants. Omega-3 supplements have not been found to help prevent depression.

However, for bipolar disorder, omega-3s can have an impact. When you take omega-3s, the central nervous system phospholipases are inhibited, interrupting the production of certain prostaglandins associated with mania. Simply put, taking omega-3s with bipolar disorder can cause mania, so be careful about how much you take. Always take supplements in combination with your prescribed medications.

Foods That Harm Your Mental Health

Young woman looking at frozen pizza at the grocery store.

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trans fat

It’s no secret that fast food is not the best choice for healthy eating. A diet high in trans fats can reduce serotonin production and increase inflammation, which increases your risk of depression. You don’t have to be perfect with your food choices. Occasionally, foods high in trans fats won’t destroy your sanity. However, in general, they do more harm than good.

Refined sugars

Refined sugars, delicious as they are, are bad for your mental health. Sweet snacks give you a big energy boost but come with an equally intense crash. A 2019 study found that eating regularly added sugars can compromise your body ability to cope with stress. A diet with excess refined sugars also prepares you for a better risk of depression. All the sugar creates a brain chemical imbalance in the brain.

Hitting the sugar isn’t that easy. Studies have shown that stopping sugar consumption can mimic withdrawal symptoms. Reducing your sugar intake is a process. Start by narrowing down the obvious sources — soda, desserts and sweeteners. Then, progress by intentionally making different food choices.

processed foods

Frozen dinners and ramen are extremely convenient and often what we crave when we’re feeling down. They offer a pick-me-up, but it never lasts. Not only are processed foods bad for your physical health, they can also impact your mental health.

High consumption of ultra-processed foods has been associated with symptoms of anxiety and mild depression. Processed foods can also cause inflammation in the body, especially in the gut, compromising serotonin production.


Caffeine is a crucial part of many people’s lives. To be clear, you can be healthy and drink caffeine, but it can have an effect. impact on anxiety and stress levels.

Caffeine is a stimulant that helps us focus and be alert. It does this by increasing our heart rate and blood pressure, which can mimic anxiety symptoms and make you feel nervous or anxious. Monitoring your caffeine intake is essential if you live with anxiety. You can also try drinking herbal teas for anxiety instead of coffee or sodas. It has been shown that teas lower cortisol levels and helps you feel relaxed.

Woman looking out the window while holding a cup of tea in her hand.

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For many people, alcohol and mental health are closely linked and are often used to relieve symptoms. Although it can relieve feelings of depression or anxiety at this time, heavy alcohol consumption exacerbates the condition, especially depression, mood disorders and anxiety.

Remember that drinking alcohol or eating sweets or fast food from time to time will not compromise your mental health. It’s all about moderation. Be aware of what you eat can improve your mental health.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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