Brain Food: Why What You Eat Matters

Friends discussing at the kitchen table

We’ve all heard the saying: you are what you eat. Well, it turns out that good nutrition not only puts you on track for a six-pack but can also make you happier.

Research shows that when you are deficient in certain nutrients such as Vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium, you are at a higher risk for experiencing a depressed mood. In other words, adding these specific food groups into your regular diet can help you experience a happier, more stress-free life.

How does it work?

Certain vitamins (such as zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium) promote neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to change and adapt. This, in turn, helps the brain be resilient in the face of stress, ultimately decreasing the risk of depression

Other vitamins, like certain vitamin Bs, have anti-inflammatory properties which have also been shown to function as a mild antidepressant.

So, what should I be munching on?

Seafood and leafy vegetables (cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, etc.) typically work the best when it comes to antidepressant efficacy. You should try and reach for mood-boosting “superfoods”- the foods that have several of the beneficial nutrients mentioned. These include leafy greens, peppers, oysters, mussels, oily fish such as salmon, nuts, and eggs.

Still not inspired? Let’s take a look at some recipes that incorporate these mood-boosting foods. Happy snacking!


Avocado toast

Vitamin B-Happy Avo Toast

  • Take ½ an avocado (Vitamin B, Omega 3-fatty acids, Zinc) and mash it with olive oil (Omega 3-fatty acids). Spread the mash on whole-grain toast (Vitamin B, Magnesium). Top with salt and pepper!

Oh-So-Calm Chia Pudding

  • Mix ⅓ cup of water with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds (Vitamin D, Omega 3-fatty acids) in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Stir in toppings (cocoa powder, cinnamon, peanut butter, etc.) and enjoy!

Kick-Butt Kale Salad

  • Mix 5 cups of chopped kale with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Finely chop nuts of choice (almonds, walnuts, etc.) and add in. Massage in ¼ cup of red onion and 2 cups of chopped broccoli. Add seeds/toppings of choice (sunflower, chia, cranberries, etc.) Squeeze a lemon on top and serve! (This meal contains all of the antidepressant nutrients mentioned in this article!)

Stress-Free Salmon

Mix the juice of a lime with four teaspoons of sweet chili dipping sauce. Marinate salmon fillets in the sauce for thirty minutes. Place fillets on a foil-covered baking tray and bake in the oven for ten minutes at 392 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove and brush salmon with remaining marinade and return to the oven for 6–8 minutes, or until cooked. While salmon is cooking, heat olive oil in a large frying pan and stir fry broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper, and shredded cabbage. Serve salmon atop veggie mixture! (This meal contains all of the antidepressant nutrients mentioned in this article!)


The Sunny Side:

  • Chop up some bell pepper (Vitamin B, Zinc, Magnesium) and simmer in a pan with olive oil (Omega 3-fatty acids). Add in kale (Vitamin B, Magnesium) and stir until wilted. Cook one egg sunny-side up (Omega 3-fatty acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Zinc) and serve on top of veggie scramble.
Apple and peanut

Quick Brighten-Up Bites:

  • Apple & peanut butter (Omega 3-fatty acids)
  • Greek yogurt & mixed berries (Vitamin B, Zinc)
  • Mixed nuts (Omega 3-fatty acids)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (Omega 3-fatty acids, Vitamin D, Vitamin B, Zinc)
  • Turkey roll-ups (roll turkey and cheese in a lettuce wrap) (Vitamin D, Magnesium)

Our blog has more articles on mental health, such as 4 questions to help you stop worrying, 5 yoga positions to decrease anxiety and 7 natural remedies for anxiety


By Ava Ford

Ava Ford is a writer, thinker and mental health advocate.

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