Photo by Margot Kern.

The Impact of Food on Mental Health

Mental health issues are skyrocketing with the recent pandemic and the growing influence of social media. There are many ways to prevent the growth of mental illness, but it is most important to focus on putting healthy food in your body and the role food plays in your life. A balanced diet and good nutrients can give you the energy you need for activities and everyday life, but what foods can give your mind the power it needs to function mentally? Biology teacher Nancy Cripe says, “Fruits and vegetables and things that should make up much more of our diet that have so many great vitamins are good, not just for our brains, but for our whole body.”

Common mental illnesses that people of all ages face are depression, and anxiety. According to Jodi Clarke’s article, Foods to Help Fight Depression,” posted on the website Verywell Mind, it is important to incorporate many healthy grains, meats, probiotics, and vegetables into your diet. These categories include: Fish, nuts, seeds, beans, poultry, and various different types of probiotics.  All these items are easy to access at local grocery stores and can be included in different, fun recipes

These foods are beneficial to the mind because fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetables all contain Omega-3 which is proven to boost serotonin (the regulation of anxiety, happiness, and mood). Probiotics such as kombucha, kimchi, yogurt, etc. can boost your mood by reducing inflammation and producing feel-good transmitters. Beans and poultry are also good to eat to maintain a stable blood sugar level. 

According to the article “You Are What You Eat”, It is important to avoid foods that are high in sugar, processed foods, and fried foods. Sugary foods can spike blood sugar, processed foods are pre-made and flat-out unhealthy, and fried foods contain high levels of saturated fats which are difficult for your body to digest. The article recommends staying away or limiting the amount of ‘junk’ food you intake as it can take a toll on you mentally. 

“Processed foods are fine for an occasional treat,” said Cripe,

“but they don’t provide the nourishment that our bodies need, our brains need, or our muscles need, especially for growing teenagers.” 

Blood sugar changes from junk food are hard on our bodies and impact our minds and cause mood swings. 

Blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances are often to blame,” Amy Magill wrote in an online article, “What is the Relationship Between Food and Mood?” posted on the Mental Health First Aid website, a project of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “Without a steady source of fuel from the foods we eat, our mind and bodies don’t function well.”

Overall,  It is important for society to eat healthy foods that can benefit greater things than your physical health. Healthy eating is a primary factor to maintain a happy mood and for the brain to function best. The right foods can shift your brain chemistry by affecting the structure and the way it functions. Mental health issues are present everywhere and it is important to take small steps, such as your food intake, to benefit your overall well-being. 


Recipes to Boost Your Mental Health/mood:

Green Smoothie:

  • Milk– 1 1/2 cup of milk, or any nut milk
  • Spinach– 2 cups fully packed
  • Banana– 1 banana (frozen is best)
  • Apple– 1 apple sliced into pieces
  • Avocado– 1/4 avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Flax seeds
  • Nuts of choice 


Blueberry and Nut Oat Bake

  • Almond milk- 2 cups
  • Oats- 1 cup
  • Almond butter- 2 tbsp 
  • Baking powder- 1 tsp
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 small ripe banana, mashed
  • ½ tsp almond extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • Blueberries, plus extra to serve
  • Almonds
  • Yogurt and honey 


Salmon With Kimchi Butter and Cucumber Pickle

  • 125g softened unsalted butter
  • 50g kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), plus 1 tablespoon kimchi juice
  • 1/4 cup (55g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) rice vinegar
  • 1 telegraph cucumber, halved lengthways, thinly sliced into ribbons
  • 1 long red chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 Asian (red) eschalot, thinly sliced
  • 4 x 180g salmon fillets (skin on)
  • Sunflower oil, to rub
  • 1/2 cup (100g) jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup smoking wood dust
  • 1/2 cup lapsang souchong tea leaves
  • Micro herbs (optional), to serve



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