Foods for Mental Health

Mental health doesn’t only mean feeling stable under stress or balanced when your life is out of whack. Mental health also refers to the physical health of the brain. The brain has become the central organ driving most of today’s mental health research, and one of the key findings from this research is that supporting our brain can help to repair it, minimize mental health symptoms and in some cases, hold off symptoms for years.

A healthy brain enables clear thought, motivated action, and emotional resiliency–all things that impact our lives and performance. In other words, without brain health, you can’t have mental health.

So let’s look at some foods that feed the brain and improve your mental health.

1. Spices

Stock up on saffron, turmeric, curcumin, and peppermint to improve concentration and cinnamon to help manage ADHD and irritability.

2. Dopamine-rich foods

Dopamine-rich foods help you stay focused and motivated. They include turmeric, theanine from green tea, lentils, fish, lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, nuts, and seeds such as pumpkin seeds. High protein veggies are broccoli, bak choy, and kale.

3. Serotonin-rich foods

For mood, sleep, pain, and craving control you want to combine tryptophan-containing foods with healthy carbs. Tryptophan foods include eggs, turkey, seafood, chickpeas, nuts, bananas, and seeds, which are the building blocks for serotonin. When combined with healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes and quinoa, you’ll get a short-term insulin response that drives tryptophan into the brain. Dark chocolate is also good for increasing serotonin levels.

4. GABA-rich foods

If you suffer from anxiety, eat more broccoli, almonds, walnuts, lentils, bananas, oranges, beef liver, and gluten-free whole oats. GABA supplements can also improve the quality of your sleep. As a sleep aid, it should be taken on an empty stomach about 30 minutes before bed.

5. Choline-rich foods

Shrimp, eggs, scallops, sardines, chicken, turkey, tuna, cod, beef, collard greens, Brussels sprouts.

6. Fruits and vegetables

Up to 8 a day helps moods.

7. Coffee and green tea

The results of a comprehensive study conducted by Dr. Alan Leviton, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical school, drinking coffee can reduce depression risk by up to one-third. Coffee’s positive impact on mental health may be related to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as to caffeine’s ability to block receptors in people’s brains from binding with a chemical that causes fatigue and depressed mood. If you have heart problems, anxiety, or if you just don’t like the taste of coffee, go for green tea or use green tea tablets. These have fewer jittery side effects and many of the mental health benefits of coffee.


The maca plant is native to Peru where they use it in many medicinal formulations. It has also been shown to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. Peruvians refer to maca as the “food of the brain” and use it throughout their lifetime.

9. Omega-3-rich foods

Foods such as salmon, avocado, and olive oil are rich in omega-3 which helps to support nerve cell membranes and serotonin. These foods also help to manage mood and inflammation.

10. Antioxidant-rich foods

Acai fruit, parsley, cocoa powder, raspberries, walnuts, blueberries, artichokes, cranberries, kidney beans, blackberries, pomegranates, chocolate, olive, and hemp oil (not for cooking at high temperatures), dandelion green, and green tea.

11. Magnesium-rich foods

For anxiety: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, beet greens, summer squash, quinoa, black beans, and cashews.

12. Zinc-rich foods

Oysters, beef, lamb, spinach, shiitake and cremini mushrooms, asparagus, sesame, and pumpkin seeds.

13. Vitamin B-rich foods

Foods that contain Vitamin B6, B12, and folate-rich foods such as leafy greens, cabbage, bok choy, bell peppers, cauliflower, lentils, asparagus, garbanzo beans, spinach, broccoli, parsley, cauliflower, salmon, sardines, lamb, tuna, beef, and eggs give you energy

14. Prebiotic-rich foods

Dandelion greens, asparagus, chia seeds, beans, cabbage, psyllium, artichokes, raw garlic, onions, leeks, root vegetables (sweet potatoes, yams, squash, jicama, beets, carrots, turnips).

15. Probiotic-rich foods

Brined vegetables (not vinegar), kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso soup, pickles, spirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae, kombucha tea.

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