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Happy Belly, Happy Brain: How Food Habits Can Transform Your Mental Health

Food and mood aren’t just two words that happen to rhyme. There is a deeply intertwined relationship between what we put in our bodies and how we feel. Not only does your mood impact your choice of food (we’ve all had those days when we’re just sad and want to dive head first into a tub of ice cream), but the food you eat also affects your mood.

In this article from Seed and Soil Wellness, our integrative medicine doctor shares tips for how to transform your mental health through your food choices. Warning: this post might make you hungry!

The Benefits of Food for Your Brain

The majority of people know that eating a healthy and balanced diet is essential to keep your body in good shape, internally and externally. Health professionals have been saying this for decades, but now, even mental health professionals are on board. Growing bodies of evidence show that food has a major mental impact.

A Whole New Meaning to ‘Gut Feeling’

Believe it or not, your gut is known as your ‘second brain,’ with 90% of your serotonin, which plays a crucial role in emotional regulation and happiness, produced in your gut. Bacteria in your gut microbiome do so many things for your body, such as:

  • Regulating digestion and metabolism

  • Extracting and making vitamins and nutrients from the food you eat

  • Programming the body’s immune system

  • Building and maintaining the gut wall

  • Producing hundreds of neurochemicals for learning, memory, and mood

When you eat, you’re feeding the bacteria in your gut and influencing the production of mood-regulating neurochemicals. Gut bacteria are easily damaged by unhealthy, sugary, processed foods. So... let’s use logic here. Less healthy and helpful bacteria = fewer emotional regulating chemicals.

So, What Can You Eat to Boost Your Mood?

It’s true that many of the foods in our Standard American Diet, or SAD (how ironic, right?), are harmful to our gut microbiomes. However, if you stick to food categories such as complex carbohydrates, natural proteins, and colorful produce, your brain will thank you.


Protein is a crucial part of the diet that a lot of us don’t get enough of. To ensure you’re getting enough, source your protein from grass-fed and organic products such as beef, fish, chicken, turkey, beans, eggs, and unsweetened yogurt. Animal flesh is the ideal source for our GI tract.

Don’t be afraid to get adventurous when it comes to eating meat – organ meat is incredibly beneficial for your health.

Higher protein consumption has been linked to increased dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which both have a massive impact on mood, motivation, and concentration.

Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients that are essential for those high-vibe, good mood feelings. The majority of fruits and vegetables provide prebiotics, meaning they literally feed the gut.

By helping to reduce general inflammation and oxidative stress, the healing compounds found in fruits and vegetables improve mental health.

Healthy Fats

On one hand, bad fats, such as those found in fried foods, have been scientifically shown to dramatically increase the risk of depression. On the other hand, healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats found in wild salmon, olive oil, coconut, chia seeds, avocado, eggs, and walnuts support mental health, mood, and cognitive well-being. This means clearer thinking and less brain fog.

The main goal in eating all of these foods is to acquire the proper nutrients to support your mental health. Nutrients that play an important role in a healthy mood include:

  • Folate

  • Iron

  • Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium

  • Selenium

  • Thiamine

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin D3

  • Vitamin C

  • Zinc

Synthetic versions of these vitamins may be rejected by your intake regulators.

Making Lasting Changes

When it comes to making diet changes, a complete 180 switch in what you’re eating can be overwhelming, especially because preparing meals with fresh produce can take quite a bit of extra time.

However, we promise it is so worth it!

To make the transition a bit easier, we suggest meal prepping after you do your grocery shopping over the weekend.

Before the start of the week, clean and chop all of your veggies and fruits as well as soak and cook beans and brown rice or quinoa.

This makes it much easier to whip up a fresh meal rather than throw a frozen meal in the microwave or order takeout.

If you’re just starting to make changes, even small changes can have a big impact. Instead of eating potato chips for a snack, opt for mixed nuts; or swap out the queso for some freshly mashed guacamole on Taco Tuesday!

If you’re not sure where to start and are having trouble eating right, visit our office at Seed and Soil Wellness. Dr. Damon will lay out meal suggestions that work with your lifestyle and support you on your health journey in whatever way he can!

Got Gut Problems? > How to Heal Your Leaky Gut

Feel Better with Seed & Soil Wellness

The food you put in your belly has an impact on all areas of your health – not just your weight. Your mood in particular can be heavily influenced by the foods you eat, so before you jump on SSRIs or benzodiazepines, we highly recommend you try making diet adjustments first.

At Seed and Soil Wellness, our goal is to get to the root of why you’re feeling bad. Whether you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, or any other mental ailment, we’ll find the answer to why you’re feeling that way and create a plan to help you feel better.


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