10 Foods That Can Improve Your Mental Health

You’ve heard the expression that “you are what you eat,” but this saying doesn’t just apply to weight or energy level. Food can have a powerful effect on emotional and mental health. The mind and body are deeply intertwined and the nutrients we ingest can sometimes make the difference between feeling happy and optimistic or feeling anxious or depressed.

The digestive tract acts as a second brain. It creates hundreds of neurochemicals that regulate mental processes—including producing 95 percent of the body’s serotonin supply, which influences mood.

Here are 10 foods and nutrients that can have a significant, positive impact on mental health.

  1. Nuts. Foods high in magnesium—like cashews, almonds, and peanuts—can help calm the nervous system and have anti-anxiety effects.
  2. Dark chocolate. Cacao and cocoa contain serotonin and simulate the production of endorphins, which elevate mood.
  3. Nutritional yeast. Foods that contain high levels of Vitamin B, such as nutritional yeast, can boost energy and have a positive effect on mental state.
  4. Fatty fish and seafood. Fish contain a number of nutrients essential for a healthy mental state, including Vitamin D, which can reduce symptoms of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  5. Chia seeds and sunflower seeds. These seeds contain tryptophan, which is a precursor for serotonin and can increase feelings of calm or even sleepiness.
  6. Yogurt. Yogurt is full of healthy probiotics that can help regulate the digestive system and make sure you are properly absorbing nutrients. This, in turn, can reduce feelings of sluggishness or irritability.
  7. Dark, leafy greens. Foods that are high in iron, such as dark leafy greens, have a positive impact on mental health. Iron deficiency can lead to psychological symptoms such as anxiety, irritability and depression.
  8. Green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine, which promotes relaxation without drowsiness. It also contains a small amount of caffeine, which can boost energy levels temporarily.
  9. Blueberries. Berries are high in antioxidants, which may help reduce the inflammation associated with depression and other mental health disorders.
  10. Water. While it isn’t a food, water is extremely important for mental health. Dehydration can lead to a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including anxiety and lethargy.