From Gut to Brain: 8 Foods to Eat for Better Mental Health

8 Foods to Eat for Better Mental Health

A healthy gut maintains a healthy brain. 

Did you know that 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut?

Your gut has intricate networks of neurons, neurotransmitters, and hormones that send signals to the brain, which can affect your performance, feelings, and mental awareness in profound ways.

Your brain is a very important organ in the nervous system. How you remember things, how you do the decision making, and how you walk and talk are all controlled by the brain. Even the beating of your heart and your digestion.

Gut & Brain Connection

Your gut bacteria affects your brain health. If you have poor gut health, you may experience loss of focus, poor metabolism, insomnia, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

So changing your diet may improve your gut bacteria and brain health.

Probiotics are live, good bacteria that play a huge role in your gut. There are trillions of microbes that live inside your gut. Both of these affect how your brain works to signal your body which parts should be working at a specific moment.

The neurotransmitters in your brain are also connected to your gut. These neurotransmitters produce serotonin, which controls your mood, feelings, and also sleep. Your gut also contributes to producing a large portion of serotonin, so what you eat affects your brain.

Clearly, when you eat something, you’re not only filling your stomach, you’re feeding your brain, too.. Therefore, a healthy diet and proper nutrition is what you need to achieve better mental well-being.

Foods to Eat for Better Mental Health

“Your brain is your garden. The roots are nurtured by the foods you eat.”

Among the biggest threats for mental health are processed foods. They contain ingredients to prolong the shelf life, which are harmful for the brain and body. They also have addictive content that triggers dopamine in your brain, making you crave more. 

People who have healthy diets tend to crave less than those who eat frequently unhealthy and processed foods. But if you ever experience sudden cravings or emotional eating, it’s not too late. There are plenty of effective ways to stop your unhealthy food cravings.

Too much sugar can also lead to inflammation, causing anxiety, poor stress management, lack of focus, and mood disorders. But a healthy gut can help suppress these conditions.

That being said, hereby are foods you need to eat or incorporate into your daily diet for better gut and brain health:

Complex Carbohydrates Foods

complex carbohydrate foods for better mental health

Great examples of complex carbohydrates are starchy vegetables, quinoa, beets, and millets. These foods can give you more energy and have ample amounts of nutrition.

Sweet potato and brown rice are also high in fiber and make a suitable substitute for white rice to keep you full and satisfied for longer. People who are working out or on a weight loss journey alternatively eat sweet potato and brown rice so they can have the strength and energy to fulfill their daily activities.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

omega-3 rich foods for better mental health

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly needed for the brain and nervous system to function optimally. You can mostly find these fats in oily fishes like wild salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna. They can also increase the good bacteria in your gut, preventing the risk of hypertension and bad cholesterol levels. Nuts, flaxseeds, and eggs are also substantial sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Not much of a fish eater? Don’t worry. There is still a brilliant way to catch the benefits of Omega-3 for non fish-eaters.

Fermented Foods

fermented foods for better mental health

Kimchi, sauerkraut, cheese, kefir, kombucha, natto, miso soup, and yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), are all probiotics-rich foods. They contain lactic acid bacteria that can increase the good bacteria in your gut.

What are probiotics for? They are live good bacteria and yeasts that support your body’s healthy immune system and healthy gut. These beneficial bacteria help counterattack the bad ones that will enter your system, neutralizing a healthy balance in your mind and body.

If you want to know more about the benefits of probiotics, click here.


berries for better mental health

We all know that berries are rich in antioxidants. But they can also contribute to better moods and fewer stress symptoms. So if you love berries, then congratulations because you’re most likely to have better stress management than those who don’t eat them.

By the way, blueberries deserve a special shout out. They are richer in manganese, which is very important for mental wellness. Just half a cup of wild blueberries a day is enough to deliver your daily dose of manganese.

Polyphenol-Rich Foods and Beverages

Polyphenol-Rich Foods and Beverages for better mental health

Polyphenols are reducing agents or antioxidants that protect your body from oxidative stress and other diseases. There are plenty of polyphenol-rich foods, which are the plant chemicals that are digested by your gut bacteria. And you know that when you have enough good bacteria, it can promote healthier digestion and cognitive function.

Food and drink you can eat that are high in polyphenol are green tea, cocoa, nuts, coffee, berries, flaxseeds, and olives.

High-Fiber Foods

High-Fiber Foods for better mental health

Whole grains, oatmeal, nuts (especially walnuts), seeds, fruits (especially apples and berries), vegetables (especially broccoli and potatoes), avocado, banana, and beans are all high in fiber. They can also help delay brain aging and improve performance on cognitive tasks.

Each also contains probiotics which are good for your gut bacteria, and prebiotics that can ease stress hormones.

Lean Proteins

Lean Proteins for better mental health

Protein are very important for gut health and brain development. Foods that are packed with protein are essential for the growth or brain tissues and neurotransmitters. It is also great for your gut health and weight loss journey.

Any kinds of foods that are rich in protein are good. But the best ones are those that are lower in fat or carbohydrates. Here are some examples:

  • White-fleshed fish - cod, haddock, grouper, halibut, tilapia, and bass
  • Skinless white meat poultry - chicken breast and tenderloins (preferably cooked without the skin to limit calories and fat)
  • Lean beef - round steak, tenderloin steak, sirloin
  • Lean pork - sirloin roast, pork top loin, pork chop, pork tenderloin
  • Frozen unbreaded shrimp
  • Wild salmon
  • Lentils, peas, and beans
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Low-fat milk
  • Egg whites
  • Cottage cheese that is low in fat
  • Tofu
  • Unsweetened powdered peanut butter

Tryptophan-rich foods

Tryptophan-rich foods for better mental health

Tryptophan is a type of amino acid that is essential for cognitive processes and brain functions. One of its major roles is to boost or maintain good levels of serotonin. It also regulates appetite and good digestion.

Foods that are rich in tryptophan are oats, nuts, seeds, chicken, turkey, whole milk, canned tuna, eggs, fish, sesame seeds, and pumpkin.


The best and most efficient pharmacy is within your system. Taking care of your mind and gut by eating the mentioned foods above promotee better mood, enhanced focus, more energy, better cognitive function, and overall, a healthier you.