How Nutrition Impacts Mental Health

Learn what to eat to support your brain so you can think, feel, and act your best to achieve your full potential. 

A young woman drinking water from a bottle

Did you know that what you eat can impact your mood and mental health? Nutrition plays a significant role, influencing various aspects of your brain function and overall well-being. Learn what to eat to support your brain so you can think, feel, and act your best to achieve your full potential. 

How nutrition impacts mental health 

Supports brain development and function 

Your brain is constantly working to process thoughts and keep you functioning. Proper nutrition and calorie intake are essential for the development and maintenance of the brain. In fact, your brain accounts for about 20% of your daily calorie needs (6). 

Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseed), B vitamins (meat, dairy, seafood, legumes), iron (beef, spinach, lentils, dried apricots), zinc (oysters, chickpeas, poultry, seeds) and antioxidants (berries, green tea, sweet potato, dark chocolate) support cognitive function, brain chemical production, and how our brain cells communicate (1). 

Regulates brain chemicals  

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals in the brain. These affect our mood, how we think, and even our behavior. Nutrients like amino acids (protein building blocks) and some vitamins and minerals, are important for neurotransmitter synthesis and regulation. For example, serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, is created from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in milk, turkey, and tofu (2). 

Decreases inflammation and oxidative stress

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are involved in the development of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety (7). Nutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C (citrus fruit, bell pepper, broccoli) and vitamin E (nuts, avocado, plant oils), help combat these and promote brain health (3). 

Improves the gut-brain connection

The gut-brain axis is a communication system between your digestive system and brain (4). Gut microbiome, influenced by our diet and even stress levels, play a crucial role in this communication. A balanced diet rich in fiber (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes), prebiotics (onions, whole grains, asparagus, garlic) and probiotics (yogurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh) supports a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn can positively impact your mood, stress response, and cognitive function.

Balances blood sugar 

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can make our mood and energy levels unstable. Consuming a diet high in refined sugars and processed foods can lead to spikes and crashes in blood sugar, contributing to mood swings, fatigue, and irritability. A balanced diet with complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, like recipes found on Lifesum, help regulate blood sugar and energy. 

Prevents deficiencies and disorders

Deficiencies of certain nutrients have been linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders. For example, deficiencies in B vitamins, iron, zinc, and magnesium have been associated with depression and other mood disorders (5). Making sure to get enough of these nutrients on a daily basis is important for your mental well-being.

  • B vitamins: meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds.

  • Iron: beef, poultry, egg, tofu, spinach, broccoli. 
  • Zinc: meat, shellfish, 
  • Magnesium: beans, peas, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, whole grains. 

Did you know that cooking also benefits your mental health? Try these nourishing recipes and start feeling good today: Healthy Recipes

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All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.