Food and Your Mental Health

Food and Your Mental Health

This article gives starter information with regard to how what you eat may influence your mental health. This is a much wider subject area than that which is written here. Please do undertake further research and take doctors advice if necessary before taking any action.


This may be a big surprise to some people but there is no longer any scientific dispute that what you eat can affect your mood. A neurotransmitter called Serotonin has been tied to depression when it is in low levels. Foods that may help with this are:

  • Folic acid rich foods such as Spinach
  • Selenium rich foods such as seafood
  • Carbohydrates including sugar
  • Caffeine Garlic and Ginger.

Research has shown that folic acid deficiency is linked with various mental health disorders. It is thought that this is because Folic acid deficiency causes Serotonin levels in the brain to sink. There is a suggestion that 200-500 micrograms of Folic Acid per day may help with Depression and this amount is easily achievable via food.

Fish has been called brain food for quite some time. Seafood is high in Selenium and people who have a diet that is low in this are more likely to suffer from depression. It is not the case that to boost this mineral gives a better mood but more so that when people are deficient it can cause issues. It is therefore important to ensure that you have enough of this in your diet. This can be gained by eating 1 Brazil Nut as these are the richest of all foods in Selenium. Other suggestions are 4.5 oz tuna or sunflower seeds or 8oz dry oat bran. These give around 100 micrograms of Selenium each which research has shown is all that is needed.

Normal people eating food carbohydrates may find that they are less energetic and less alert however people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression will find that these food items act as a self administered anti depressant. Whilst sugar will work with this task it is more useful to eat complex carbohydrates like dried beans, pasta, vegetables, cereals, bread and crackers as this is healthier.

Caffeine is proven to be a mood lifter. Research shows that as little as one cup of coffee a day can help and that even drunk daily the effects of this do not change. It is important to point out here though that excessive caffeine can wreck mood, disturb sleep and trigger anxiety. This will depend on individual tolerance levels. Less is more with regard to caffeine. Certainly in excessive amounts it can cause panic attacks.

Research has also shown that in some instances Garlic can help as a mood elevator. Finally eating hot Chilli peppers can help too. Capsaicin can induce endorphins from the brain which gives a temporary high. This is thought to be due to the false pain signals created by the heat from the Chilli.


Caffeine – in large amounts or above your tolerance levels can help to create anxiety. If you are suffering try to reduce your consumption.

Alcohol – It is thought that this can help to create anxiety due to alcohol withdrawal. Again individuals have tolerance levels with regard to this so if you are suffering from anxiety have a look at your levels of consumption and test impacts of reducing consumption or even leaving out altogether.

Carbohydrates as listed in the above section on depression can help with calming the brain and so therefore help with anxiety.

Sleep Difficulties:

If you are not suffering from depression but merely struggling to sleep than it may be that you can use the fact that carbohydrates cause drowsiness. Try an ounce or so of sweet or starch stuff half an hour before going to bed. Honey has been used as a soporific for centuries to aid sleep. Don’t mix anything with your ‘carb fix’ as that can help to dull the effects. Also do low fat as fat helps to slow the effects of the carbs.

Yellow and Red Onions contain Quercetin which is a mild sedative.

Warm milk may help some people due to the Casamorphins.

 Avoid caffeine when struggling with Sleep.

Mood Swings, Menopause and Estrogen:

Calcium can help with mood swings as can collard greens. There is also a debate as to whether carbohydrates can help. Finally excessive or even any caffeine can exacerbate mood swings.

Research suggests that eating Soy Beans and flax seed can help stimulate Estrogen in post-menopausal women. It does need to be high protein soybean products that are used. Boron containing foods can also help and things like apples, pears, grapes, dates, raisins and peaches have high levels. So too do nuts such as almonds, peanuts and Hazelnuts.

Foods with Estrogenic Activity include anise, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, coffee, corn, cumin, flax seed, garlic, licorice, oats, pineapple, peanut, potato, rice, sesame seed, soybeans.



Food Your Miracle Medicine – Jean Carper