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Brain Food- Detailed Guide on Mental Health & Nutrition

Brain Food – Detailed Guide on Mental Health & Nutrition

It is an admitted fact that the mental health of an individual depends upon the proper nutrition. Good nutrition is a key to heal destructive feelings, cognition, emotion, and behavior. Many of the people rely only on the medicine for the treatment of mental illnesses but they do not realize the importance of good nutrition. Let us discuss the foods that help us to overcome many mental disorders.

When we look at the connection between mental health and nutrition many quires comes in our mind what is the actual meaning of mental health? and how nutrition is responsible for mental well-being.

Good Food Provides Fuel for Brain

Mental health is a mixture of emotional, psychological, social and behavioral wellness that enables people to understand their own tendency to tackle stress of life, work fruitfully and valuable, and play an efficient role in society.

Nutrition is considered to be a process through which human eats and then use food to acquire energy, development, mental alertness, and preventing chronic illnesses.

Malnutrition refers to a severe state that appears when someone’s food does not comprise of the appropriate nutrients quantity according to the age and function of that individual. Malnutrition indicates inadequate nutrition. Malnutrition not only affects physical health but also disturbs the mental health. It includes two phenomena;

Elements Affecting Mental Health:

Many of the factors can affect mental health for example genetics, diet, immobility, drugs, stress, and some other environmental influences. Our mental health necessitates good quality food. Poor, highly processed items of food, fried, more sugary foodstuffs, grilled and heated meat can cause inflammation (food allergies).

Role of Macronutrients and Micronutrients:

Nutrition includes micronutrients e.g., minerals and vitamins as well as macronutrients e.g., fat, carbohydrates and protein. These are necessary to maintain homeostasis. Functioning of the brain effects by a lot of nutrients. Deficiency of vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E can cause problems related to depression, memory, and cognition. Minerals including zinc and iron are essential for metabolism, the functioning of neurotransmitters and myelination. The balance of the body, prevention of mental health problem and efficiency of thyroid glands depends upon selenium.

Improvement in the activity of neuron and reduction in inflammation may be possible by omega-3 fatty acids. Mono-saturated fats, poly-saturated, carbohydrates, and protein are vital for memory, neurogenesis, behavioral, psychomotor action and cognition.

Deficiency of certain nutrients may hinder homeostasis, nourishment to the brain, and a happy mood. In this result effectivity of psychotherapy and medicines also become low.

Effects of Nutrition on Mental Health:

Nutritional deficiency can cause disruption in emotions, cognition, and behavior of a human being. As a result, many psychological and mental disorders may occur.

Foods that reduce stress

Almost every person in this society is affecting by the stressors. Stressors may be of three types; Cataclysmic: occur unexpectedly and immediately affect many persons (for example natural disasters), Personal: Major problems of life (for example family member’ death have negative effects that normally vanish within time. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a catastrophic and person related stressor.

It has long-term effects which may incorporate re-experiencing particular event in dreams or flashbacks) and Background stressors (for example daily life annoyances). Physical symptoms include; high blood pressure, low immunity, increased activity of hormones. Destructive behaviors include; smoking, use of alcohol, drug use, disturbed eating routine (under-nutrition) and insomnia.

Stress can be reduced by proper nutrients consumption.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Tryptophan Chamomile tea Reduces stress, calms nerves,  treats insomnia, fever and inflammation
Vitamin B1, B3, B6, B9, & B12 Whole grains (brown rice), dairy items, lentils, beef liver, pulses, vegetables, eggs, seafood, nuts, meat, & dried fruits Reduce adrenaline, cortisol, & chemicals of stress that trigger response of fight & flight
Vitamin C







Citrus fruits (mandarins, limes, oranges, lemons & grapefruit), Berry fruits (blueberries, black berries, blackcurrants, & strawberries) and Vegetables (cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, & peppers) Manage stress, maintains immunity and reduces adrenaline, cortisol & chemicals of stress that trigger response of fight & flight




Vitamin E Leafy green vegetables & nuts Antioxidant (stress relieving)
Calcium Leafy green vegetables, low-fat yogurt, pulses, skimmed milk, cheese, & canned fish Maintains function of the muscles and nerves during stress
Chromium Herbs, veggies, bananas, seafood, spices, meats, shellfish, broccoli, oysters, brazil nuts, cereals, meats, egg yolk, oatmeal, apples, cheese, mushrooms, dates, asparagus, yeast, & molasses Controls cholesterol in the blood and protects heart & blood circulation
Iron Red meat, fish, poultry, beans, cereals, spinach, raisins, dark chocolate, pulses, & pistachios Makes hemoglobin, reduces fatigue and keeps breathing stable
Selenium Beef, cottage cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds, brown rice, baked beans, mushrooms, spinach, milk, lentils, yogurt, bananas, brazil nuts, fish, & oatmeal Protects immunity, maintains production & regulation of hormones (e.g., thyroid hormones) and reduces adrenaline, cortisol & chemicals of stress that trigger response of fight & flight
Zinc Red meat, egg yolk, dairy items, wheat germ, oysters,  sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, seafood, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, & spinach Boosts immunity (fight against infections), protects cellular pathway of signaling related to stress, and balances protein
Copper Almonds, kale, chia seeds, asparagus, dried apricot, lentils, goat cheese, quinoa, beef liver, sunflower seeds, raisins, & dark chocolate Protects immunity inthe body
Magnesium Green vegetables, nuts, dried figs, whole grains, cereals, sesame seeds, & pulses Manages stress
Potassium Banana, tea, fish, avocado, milk, carrots, yogurt, chocolate, nuts, & whole wheat Maintains functioning of the nervous system

 Foods that reduce anger

Anger considered as an emotion or feeling but aggression refers to behavior that occurs in the result of angry feelings. Angry feeling is natural because through it we can express passive feelings. If we do not express then it occur in the form of resentment. Our negative reaction towards anger is not normal. We feel anger when disappointed, scared and hurt by someone.

Physical symptoms include: high BP, fatigue, headaches, increased palpitation of the heart, chest tightness and tingling. Neurological symptoms include: increased level of adrenalin and nor-adrenalin. Mental effects include: nervousness, tension, guilty feeling, irritability, and humiliation.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Tryptophan Chicken, Bananas, & Walnuts Manages sleep, mood, depression, insomnia, and anxious condition
Vitamin A, B (B6) & C Bananas Improves functioning of nervous system and sleep
Vitamin B2 Coffee Antioxidant to reduce stress, controls changes in mood,  and reduces risk of anxiety
Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Melatonin, Omega-3 fatty acids Walnuts Reduce risk of stress, improves mood and happiness
Magnesium Bananas Makes mood positive
Potassium Bananas Reduces feelings of anger
Flavonoids Dark chocolate Antioxidants to reduce stress & anxiousness by boosting serotonin hormone and beneficial to heal injuries of brain

Nutrition for Depression

Patient with depression may feel sadness, hopelessness, disturbed eating & sleeping patterns and no interest in activities which have pleasure. Neuroscience related with nutrition focused on the relationship between suicidal ideation and low serotonin. Lower amount of serotonin can cause insensitivity to upcoming results, trigger impulsiveness, aggression and eventually, suicide occurs. Deficiency of some vitamins and essential minerals can cause depression.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Vitamin B6 Green leaf vegetables, bananas, chicken, & seafood Overcomes irritability & fatigue
Vitamin B12 Animal Products; meat, poultry, & dairy items Overcomes irritability & fatigue
Folate Citrus fruits, dark leafy green vegetables, yeast, & legumes Overcomes irritability & fatigue
Vitamin D Sunlight Helps in Calcium absorption
Iron Red meat, fish, poultry, beans, cereals, & pulses Overcomes physical, mental fatigue, irritability, and low level of mood
Selenium Walnuts, brazil nuts, beef, fish, chicken, & whole grains Antioxidant, overcomes the continuous low level of mood and pessimistic thoughts
Magnesium Dark chocolate, spinach, almonds, & bananas Relaxing mineral, good for nervous system and mood

Foods that help in Anxiety Disorders                                                                                   

In this disorder patient has symptoms of uneasiness, fear, disturbed sleep, panic, cannot stay relax, sweating, numbness, irritation, breathing problems, palpitation of the heart, dryness in the mouth, nausea, muscle tension, and dizziness. Anxiety disorders may be due to lack of imperative fats, vitamins and minerals but recovery is possible by eating essential nutrients.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Omega-3 fatty acids Fish of cold water (e.g., salmon) seafood, & fish oil supplements Maintains normal function of nervous system & brain, reduces severe anxiousness, activates endocannabinoid system, and reduces inflammation
Vitamin A (Beta-carotene) Egg yolk, spinach, carrots, & ghee Antioxidant (reduce hormones of  stress) and manages Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Vitamin B6 Chicken, bananas, potatoes, &

supplement vitamin B6 with antidepressants

Protects whole nervous system, produces calm neurotransmitters in the brain (e.g., Serotonin & GABA), and overcomes persistent anxiousness & panic attacks
Vitamin C Broccoli, grapefruits,  tomatoes, & oranges Antioxidant (reduce hormones of  stress) and reduces anxiousness & Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Vitamin D (D3 supplement) Sunlight, yogurt, mushrooms, milk, & cheese Manages anxiety, depressive thoughts, addiction, and symptoms of withdrawal
Vitamin E Sweet potatoes, almonds, spinach, avocados, sunflower seeds, & cod liver oil Antioxidant (reduce hormones of  stress) and manages anxiousness
Iron Dark chocolate, spinach, pistachios, sardines, raisons, & beef liver Decreases anxiousness and fear
Selenium Seafood, eggs, meat, nuts, & grains                                        Good for mental wellness & reduces anxiousness
Zinc Beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds, spinach, & mushrooms Improves functioning of children & adult’s brain and stimulates vagus nerve that can reduce anxious feelings
Magnesium Dark chocolate, almonds, avocado, banana, & spinach Improves function of nervous system & neurotransmitters (GABA receptors) and treats depression, trauma, & addiction
Choline Beef liver & egg yolk Promotes myelin regeneration and supplementation in pregnant mother can diminishes the risk of anxiety disorders in offspring


Foods that help Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)

Patient with an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has symptoms of repetitive and continuous thoughts, images & urges. In this result, distress and anxiety may occur.

Deficiency in certain vitamins and basic minerals may cause OCD.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Vitamin B6 Poultry, legumes, potatoes, nuts, bananas, & fish Manages sleep problems, anxiety, fatigue, depression, and confusion
Folate/Vitamin B9 Avocado, asparagus, citrus fruits, lentils, peas, broccoli, & beans Manages anxiety and depression
Vitamin B12 Wholesome foods Maintains homeostasis, homocysteine (overcome anxiety & signs of depression)
Vitamin C Broccoli, grapefruits,  tomatoes, & oranges Antioxidant, calming, and overcomes anxiety due to stress
Vitamin D Sunlight, yogurt, wild mushrooms, milk, spirulina, & cheese Good for GI problems and diminishes chronic swelling
Calcium Leafy green vegetables, dairy items, & flour Calms body, Central Nervous System (CNS) and overcomes sleep problems
Selenium Seafood, grains, meat, & nuts Antioxidant and supports physiological reactions towards stress
Zinc Oysters, beef, eggs, seafood, & meat Good for functions related with structure & regulation in body, and improves catalytic activity
Copper Meat of organ, whole grains, wheat cereals, shellfish, & nuts Improves cell energy, neurotransmission, and Central Nervous System (CNS) functioning
Magnesium Dark chocolate, spinach, almonds, & bananas Overcomes inflammation

Foods that help in Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a neurodevelopment disorder among children & adults. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), it is proved that it can disturb attention, learning and behavior. Symptoms include; inattention & impulsivity/hyperactivity. Nourishing diet can reduce symptoms of ADHD. It is needed that parents and their children should be aware of a good diet and supplements.

                 Nutrients Sources Effects
Omega-3 fatty acids Fish of cold water (e.g., salmon) seafood, & fish oil supplements Improvement in attention & work efficiency and diminishes restlessness, aggression, hyperactivity or impulsivity
Vitamin D Sunlight, yogurt, mushrooms, milk, & cheese Diminishes negative thinking by increasing norepinephrine & dopamine, produces acetylcholine to make focus & concentration good, boosts nerve cell’s growth for function of execution & memory, secretes serotonin to reduce Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) & depression and effective in structural & functional development of brain
Iron Red meat, fish, poultry, beans, cereals, spinach, raisons, dark chocolate, pulses, & pistachios Improves cognition
Zinc Oysters, eggs, seafood, meat, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds,  & spinach Controls dopamine & brain reaction towards dopamine, forms neurotransmitters for concentration & attention and diminishes impulsivity
Magnesium Dark chocolate, almonds, avocado, banana, & spinach Forms neurotransmitters for concentration & attention

 Foods that help in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental disorder. Symptoms may include: impairment in social development, diminished skills of communication, repetitive or restrictive behaviors, difficulties in feeding or eating behaviors (e.g., patient requires same sitting area on the table, same plate, and same foodstuffs in their daily routine if change occur in situation they refuse to consume food), Problems in processing of sensation (e.g., patient cannot eat in area of noise because of hypersensitivity towards stimulus (sounds), food of specific colors, does not eat crunchy items of food, cannot identify particular tastes of food but having tendency to differentiate between different foods).

Nutrients Sources Effects
Folate Leafy green vegetables, nuts, peas, citrus fruits, avocado, asparagus, celery beans, lentils, seeds, & carrots Improves the development of brain and neurons
Iron Dried fruits, lentils, spinach, seeds, chickpeas, & nuts Improves the function of the brain
Zinc Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, lentils, & cashews Diminishes gastro-intestinal problems and disorders of behavior
Mangnese Sweet potato, spinach, kale, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds, pineapple, roasted pumpkin seeds Manages anxiety
Sulphur Cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips, ground flaxseeds, asparagus, and red bell peppers Resists bacteria in intestine and stomach

 Foods that help in Schizophrenia

Patient with this disorder have symptoms of delusions (false believes), hallucinations (perceive something that does not present in reality), disorganized speech (incoherence), & disorganized/catatonic behavior (rigidity/stupor; cannot speak, move and response). Diet and nutrition have an important role in reducing symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Omega-3 fatty acids Walnuts, flaxseeds, soya beans, trout, tuna, salmon, & sardines Maintains proper brain functioning
Vitamin A Egg yolk, spinach, carrots, ghee, oily fish, linseed, soya bean, & flax Antioxidant and overcomes stress
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Eggs, broccoli, potatoes, & meats Diminishes sleep related problems, thought dysfunctioning, headache, hallucination, depression  & anxiety, serves as an oxidize adrenaline to reduce the production of toxic substances and diminishes psychosis due to cerebral allergic problems
Vitamin B6 Poultry, legumes, potatoes, nuts, bananas, & fish Diminishes disorder regarding movement (e.g., restlessness & involuntary actions)
Vitamin B9/Folate  (Methylation) Citrus fruits, green leaf vegetables, & strawberries Maintains balance of chemicals
Vitamin B12 Animal products; meat, poultry Reduces impairment in cognition
Vitamin C Broccoli, grapefruits,  tomatoes, & oranges Antioxidant, anti stress and reduces the damage of cells
Vitamin E Mustard greens, peanuts, wheat germ, almonds & apricots Antioxidant and protects cells of the brain

 Nutrition for Bipolar Disorder

Patient with bipolar disorder has symptoms of two kind high mood (mania) and low mood (depression). Different therapies and mood stabilizers may overcome emotional disturbances. By a positive change in diet, we can manage episodes of mania. However, foods would not treat mania but the right selection of food may produce better feelings and patient can easily handle his or her condition. Many of the nutrients are considered to be effective for it.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Omega-3 fatty acids Tuna, trout, sardines, salmon, eggs, & flaxseeds Healthy for the brain, treats bipolar disorder, depression, and all mental disturbances
Tryptophan Turkey & chamomile tea Induces sleep, boosts body to produce chemical of serotonin which is responsible to improve symptoms of mania
Vitamin B Whole grain, toast, pasta, brown rice, & quinoa Manages mood swings, calms influence on the mind, boosts brain for serotonin production, reduces anxiety and controls feelings
Selenium Tuna, beef liver, sardines, Brazil nuts, turkey Healthy for the brain, stabilizes changes in mood, overcomes anxious and depressed feelings
Magnesium Soybeans, black beans, lentils, peanuts, almonds, chickpeas, dark chocolate, & cashews Reduces symptoms of mania, good for mood, calms the nervous system, controls the body’s response to stress                                 

Foods that help in Dementia

Dementia refers to be a neurocognitive disorder. Patient with this disorder has a problem in thinking, behavior, memory, and performance in daily activities of life, nature of disease may be progressive and chronic, occur due to different brain diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Frontotemporal dementia, Vascular Dementia, and Lewy Bodies Dementia). It is not considered to be normal in ageing or in old age. Impairment in cognition and dementia makes patient dependent, disable and more prone to other chronic illnesses.

Many psychological and behavioral symptoms occur in later life that decreases the quality of a person’s life and increases the burden on caregivers. Deficiency in certain nutrients may cause dementia but proper intake may control this disorder.

Nutrients Sources Effects
Omega 3-polysaturated fatty acids (PUFA) Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, swordfish, tuna, salmon, & herring) Increases growth of neuron & formation of the synapse, manages Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, & dementia with mixed symptoms and protective role in cognition
Vitamin B6 & Vitamin B9 Poultry, legumes, potatoes, nuts, bananas, & fish Avocado, asparagus, citrus fruits, lentils, peas, broccoli, & beans Reduce decline in cognition that occurs because of aging
Vitamin B12 Animal Products; meat, poultry, & dairy items Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, accumulation of protein and death of neurons
Vitamin C & Vitamin E Broccoli, grapefruits, tomatoes, & oranges

Sweet potatoes, almonds, spinach, avocados, sunflower seeds, & cod liver oil

Antioxidant (reduce stress & impairment in cognition), and diminish neuro-degeneration
Flavonoids           Spinach, tropical fruits, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli,  herbal teas, red & sweet peppers Antioxidants, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory

 Good Dietary Effects on Children:

American Psychological Association proves that children who take healthy diet can manage emotional behavior and stress in a better way.

Healthy plan of diet for children include;

These things not only have a good impact on IQ, performance in the academic area and cognition but also have excellent effects on overall mental health

Role of Lithium Supplements in Mental Health:

Lithium is sodium which is considered to be a natural mineral utilize as a replacement of salt to treat mental disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder, reduce the chance of suicide, control episodes of mania, and prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases. Lithium specifically works on spinal cord and brain. It functions as a mood regulator or stabilizer because it can fortify brain’s nerve cells particularly related with behavior and mood.

Orthomolecular Therapy:

Ortho means right when a person has any disorder because of the imbalance in chemicals. Then Psychiatrist can recommend supplements of necessary minerals and vitamins to acquire optimal balance. Numerous disorders can be treated by this therapy;

  • Alcoholism
  • Epilepsy
  • Migraine
  • Autism
  • Retardation
  • Depression
  • Metabolic disturbances
  • Learning Problems
  • Hyperactivity

Author’s Note

My name is Mahin Taelah. I am a Psychologist (M.Phil Applied Psychology). I have written this article to illuminate the vitality of nutrition in perspective of mental wellness. Many nutrients can be used as an alternate or supportive treatment for mental disorders. Lack of awareness is a cause of human obliteration. We cannot manage every complication in our life but we can control mental health issues by good diet consumption because hygienic food can boost mental health. Good mental health is necessary for good functioning as saying;

Calm Mind Brings Inner Strength and Self-Confidence, so that’s Very Important for Good Health

I hope my struggle will work to create enlightenment among people.

Thank you

Team – Nutrition Lab

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