ARC Blog

Eating for Mental Wellness

When our brains and bodies have been taxed by stress and anxiety, it is especially important for us to make sure that we are getting the nutrients that our bodies need. The bloodstream delivers nutrients and oxygen to the brain every minute of every day.[i] The brain, which accounts for approximately 2% of body weight, uses 20-40% of the nutrients and energy you consume![ii] So, when we eat, we are primarily feeding our brains.[iii] Certain foods and herbs are powerhouses when it comes to providing the nutrients that we need to support good mental health. Read on to discover ten foods that you should consider adding to your diet and two that you may want to limit to improve your mental health.

10 Foods to Consider Adding to Your Diet

Fermented Foods

The health of the gut microbiome affects overall health, including mental health. The gut contains an estimated 500 million neurons that communicate with the brain.[iv] Researchers have found that the bacteria in the gut produce chemicals that impact your brain and brain chemicals.[v] A healthy gut has a diverse microbiome with good bacteria. Restore and improve gut bacteria by incorporating fermented foods into your diet. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and pickled foods are examples of fermented foods.

Organ Meats

Organ meats are very nutrient-dense, and they are a rich source of B-vitamins.[vi] B-vitamins are essential for optimal functioning of the thyroid and adrenal glands.[vii] The thyroid and adrenal glands are overworked in individuals who have been experiencing increased anxiety and stress. If you have been going through a time of stress or anxiety, consider adding organ meats from pasture-raised livestock to your diet.

Coconut Water

Drinking coconut water is a refreshing and delicious way to stay hydrated. It contains minerals and is high in potassium.[viii] Potassium deficiencies can cause weakness, fatigue, and mood changes.[ix] Adding coconut water or other potassium-rich foods to your diet can help protect you against a potassium deficiency.

Spinach

Spinach is a superfood that is full of nutrients. It is a good source of Vitamin A, C, E, and K, iron, magnesium, zinc, niacin, and potassium.[x] Adding spinach to your diet is a great way to get your brain and body the nutrients that they need to function optimally.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Adding Apple Cider Vinegar to your diet can improve digestion and stabilize sugar levels.[xi] Both of these features work to improve mental and overall health. You can use it in a homemade salad dressing or add a tablespoon to a cup of water to drink. 

Eggs

Eggs are a source of many of the nutrients that your brain needs. Eggs contain B-vitamins, protein, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D.[xii] Eggs from pasture-raised poultry are also a source of Omega3s.[xiii]

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that counters the effects of stress and anxiety in the body.[xiv] This herb supports over-stressed adrenal glands. This dried herb can be steeped in hot water to make tea or it can be taken in a capsule.

Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, and they fight inflammation. Research shows that blueberries have functional antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the brain![xv] They are also an excellent source of Vitamin C. [xvi] The adrenal glands, which are activated in times of stress, use more Vitamin C than any other part of the body.[xvii] Consuming foods with higher levels of Vitamin C may help support your adrenals during times of stress.

Avocados

Avocados are a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and healthy fats that are great food for the brain. [xviii]

Fish Oil

Research demonstrates that increasing Omega3s in the diet reduces inflammation, protects against heart disease, and boosts brain health.[xix] Further, Omega3s have been shown to decrease levels of depression.[xx]Taking a fish oil supplement daily is a simple way to add Omega3s to your diet!

Two Kinds of Food to Limit

Processed, Packaged Foods

Processed and packaged foods often contain additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and genetically-modified ingredients.[xxi] These foods often lack nutrition and can be loaded with ingredients that are harmful to our bodies. A simple way to improve your diet – choose whole foods (vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, proteins) and limit or avoid processed foods (chips, pasta, bread, cereal, cookies).

Sugary Foods

Consuming sugary foods and simple carbohydrates can cause fluctuations in blood sugar and in the mood. [xxii] Research suggests high sugar intake can increase anxiety, depression, and feelings of panic.[xxiii] To improve overall health, reduce sugar in your diet.

As we seek to restore or maintain good mental health, it is important to consider how our diet affects our bodies and brains. To give ourselves a good foundation to work toward improved mental health, we want to make sure our brains are getting the nutrients they need to function properly. Check out the resources listed below to learn more about nutrition and mental health.

1.       The Better Brain by Bonnie J. Kaplan, PhD and Julia J. Rucklidge, PhD

2.       The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott, CN


[i] The Better Brain by Bonnie Kaplan PhD and Julia Rucklidge PhD, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

[ii] The Better Brain by Bonnie Kaplan PhD and Julia Rucklidge PhD, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

[iii] The Better Brain by Bonnie Kaplan PhD and Julia Rucklidge PhD, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021

[iv]  The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: How to Better Support the Brain-Gut Connection. 2021 www.rtor.org/2021/08/09/the-gut-microbiome-and-mental-health/

[v] The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: How to Better Support the Brain-Gut Connection. 2021 www.rtor.org/2021/08/09/the-gut-microbiome-and-mental-health/

[vi] The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott, CN. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2011

[vii] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[viii][viii] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[ix] 8 Signs and Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency. 2018. www.healthline.com/nutrition/potassium-deficiency-symptoms

[x][x] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xi] The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott, CN. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2011

 [xii] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xiii] The Plant Paradox by Steven R. Gundry, MD. Harper Wave. 2018

[xiv] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xv] SuperFoods by Steven Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews. Harper. 2004

[xvi]Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xvii] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xviii] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xix] The Plant Paradox by Steven R. Gundry, MD. Harper Wave. 2018

[xx] Stop the Thyroid Madness by Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.Ed. Laughing Grape Publishing, LLC. 2011

[xxi] The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott, CN. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2011

[xxii] The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution by Trudy Scott, CN. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2011[xxiii] Your Anxiety Loves Sugar: Eat These 3 Things Instead. 2020. www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-sugar-harms-mental-health#brain-zapper

Katie Rhodes lives in the Grand Rapids area with her three kids and three cats. She recently graduated from the Masters in Counseling program at Spring Arbor University, and she is completing her final steps to become a licensed counselor. Katie attended meetings at the Anxiety Resource Center when she was on her journey toward recovery from anxiety and OCD. Katie’s personal experiences with anxiety and OCD have inspired her to help others on their paths toward wellness. She plans to specialize in counseling individuals experiencing OCD, anxiety, or challenging life transitions.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and happenings around ARC.

You have Successfully Subscribed!