The evidence is clear: what you eat affects your brain and your overall mental health.
Did you know that September is Mental Health Awareness Month?
You may have noticed that our society has experienced a drastic shift in mental health within the last five years. In fact, millions in the U.S. alone are affected by mental illness every year.
To really get deep into the severity of this issue, here are a few fast facts for you:
- 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
- 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience severe mental illness yearly
- 1 in 6 U.S. children between 6-17 experience a mental health disorder every year
- 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
The steep decline has been amplified ever since COVID-19 hit. This makes sense. It was such a hard time for so many of us.
Lost jobs, single moms struggling, isolation, depression, and fear.
I like to look at these numbers above as a powerful tool to raise public awareness.
Because the more we talk about our mental health, the more likely someone is to reach out for help when they’re struggling. The stigma needs to be torn down.
More and more research is being done to figure out the variety of causes behind mental health issues. Some of these studies have shown a link between food and mental health.
That's why it's so essential to understand the foods we put into our bodies.
Because I’m a foodie, cooking is my passion and I care about my readers — I wanted to shed light on these harmful foods so you can be on the lookout.
I'm also letting you in on the five best foods for your mental health!
I hope this blog will encourage anyone struggling with mental health or looking to prevent that decline to make small, positive changes.
So, how does food affect your mental health? Let’s get into it.
The Connection Between Food & Mental Health
We’re taught from a young age that food affects the way you look and feel. But there needs to be more conversation about food affecting your brain and mental state.
Your brain loves certain nutrients that act as building blocks. These nutrients help your brain grow, remember things and think clearly.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of them. They’re found in fatty fish and help your brain send messages smoothly and even strengthen your memory.
Ever felt tired or like you couldn’t focus after a big, heavy meal? That's because some foods give your body energy very quickly but then fade away fast — like a quick burst of fireworks.
Other foods, like protein, are steady suppliers of energy. Protein keeps you full and focused for longer, which helps your brain stay on its A-game.
Amazing fact: the food you eat even affects neurons, the major cells of your brain. An unhealthy diet full of sugars and artificial foods causes inflammation of your neurons and stops the formation of new neurons. This affects how your brain works and contributes to disorders like depression.
Whereas a diet containing healthy nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, is beneficial for your brain health. This improves the formation of neurons and leads to a sharper and more focused mental state.
Imagine your brain as the control center for everything you do — from solving math problems to playing your favorite board game with your kids.
Just like a car needs good fuel to run smoothly, your brain needs the right kind of food to work its best.
A healthy diet makes a healthy brain, so we should all pay attention to what we eat. That’s why we’re digging into the five best foods for your mental health so you can start making small, impactful changes today.
The 5 Best Foods for Your Mental Health
Here are five foods your brain actually craves. They’re full of nutrients, antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. These foods give your brain energy and aid in protecting your brain cells, which help fight off the development of brain diseases.
1. Berries: Power-Packed Antioxidants
Berries are overflowing with an incredible variety of antioxidants in every single berry. From aronia berries and elderberries to strawberries and blueberries. There are so many delicious choices.
The easiest and most convenient way to get your antioxidants in every single day without fail? A daily spoonful of my Organic Elderberry Syrup. It's our secret weapon for a healthier brain and immune system during cold & flu season.
2. Fatty Fish: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a powerhouse when it comes to boosting your mental health. Think of them as brain boosters, essential for maintaining your brain's peak performance.
They act as shields, safeguarding your brain and ensuring it functions seamlessly.
Researchers believe fish oil could be a game-changer for combating serious challenges like depression. It's as though fish oil possesses a hidden power to tackle these tough mental struggles.
3. Nuts and Seeds: Nutrient-Rich Snacks
Nuts and seeds are healthy brain fuel!
Recently, researchers explored the effects of daily nut consumption on people’s cognition and brain health. Their results showed daily nut consumption benefits blood flow in your brain and verbal memory in older adults.
Need a tasty snack idea for on-the-go? Try my Elderberry Energy Balls, they’re loaded with nuts and seeds to improve your brain health.
4. Cruciferous Veggies: Vitamins and Minerals
When your mom told you to eat your broccoli, she had it right! Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and even kale. They’re some of the best brain-boosting foods. It’s all thanks to the high levels of vitamin K, Choline, vitamin C, fiber, and phytonutrients.
Here’s one of my favorite easy dinner recipes that’ll make anyone a broccoli lover.
It’s crazy that avocados get a bad rep because of their high-fat content. It’s so important to understand that these fats are monounsaturated fats, which are good fats.
Avocados are super rich in vitamins B, C, K, and Folate. They have the highest protein and lowest sugar of any fruit. Awesome, right?
So go ahead, make a plate full of these delicious foods, and start boosting your brain health today simply by eating well! Now that we’ve gone over the best foods for your brain health, let’s get into the ones we need to stay away from.
The 3 Worst Foods for Your Mental Health
Now it’s time to dig into the three worst foods for your mental health. Because eating healthy is great, but if you’re adding the foods below, you’re canceling out many of those incredible benefits.
1. Processed Foods: Empty Calories
There's a group of foods that don't quite have your back when it comes to mental health – they're called processed foods.
Sometimes, they start with real ingredients, like grains or vegetables, but then they undergo many factory changes. This involves adding extra sugars, unhealthy fats, artificial flavors and ingredients, and loads of salt to make them taste super appealing.
But these foods often lack essential nutrients your brain loves, such as vitamins and minerals. Over time, if your brain doesn't get what it needs, it struggles to stay focused, remember things, and even keep your emotions balanced.
2. Sugary Snacks: Rollercoaster Effect
Think about how you feel after munching on a sugary treat, like a candy bar or a soda. At first, it's like a burst of energy – you might feel on top of the world, ready to conquer anything.
But here's the twist: that energy doesn't last long. It's like a firework that shines bright for a moment and then fades away. After the high comes the low. Your energy crashes, and suddenly, you're left feeling tired, irritable and even a bit down.
The key is moderation. Instead of a whole bag of M&M's, grab a handful and call it a day.
3. Trans Fats: Harmful Fats
Trans fats are a type of fat that isn't your brain's best friend.
Unlike good fats that your body needs, trans fats are made in a laboratory. They're created by adding hydrogen to liquid oils, making them solid at room temperature. You can find trans fats in many processed and fried foods, like certain baked goods, fries, and even margarine.
Trans fats weaken your brain's messaging. It also can lead to inflammation, which feels like “brain fog.” This makes it harder to concentrate, remember things and affects your mood.
I know it’s incredibly hard to cut these foods out of your life. You can start cutting these foods out of your life slowly. Each time you have some, make sure to have less than the time before. Soon, you’ll find yourself feeling better, healthier and not even missing these foods.
Small, Positive Changes Add Up
Adding healthy foods and eliminating the unhealthy ones might be easier said than done, but remember to start small. Make one change a day and see how quickly they add up.
Start reading those food labels and thinking about what you’re putting into your body.
Because what you put on your plate isn't just about satisfying your taste buds. It's a powerful decision that can shape how your brain thinks, feels and functions.
As you move forward on your health journey, armed with knowledge about the foods that can elevate your mood, sharpen your focus and keep your brain in top gear — remember that you have the power to shape your mental health through the choices you make every day.
So, let's raise a fork to a healthier, happier mind, one bite at a time.
Your brain deserves the best — you have what it takes to give it just that.
Learn more about my natural products designed to support your health here.
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