Foods to Keep Your Gut Healthy and Your Mind Happy

How Can My Diet Help Alleviate Depression and Anxiety?

Turns out it may be time to take those “gut feelings” a little more seriously – studies have shown that the link between gut health and your overall mood is a powerful one. As we continue to learn more about the highly-mysterious digestive system, mounting evidence suggests the gut flora (your “microbiome”) is an important player when it comes to anxiety, mood, & cognition. Avoiding processed & inflammatory foods and incorporating certain nutrients into your diet may even help alleviate depression – which makes sense given that 90% of serotonin receptors in the body are located in the gut. So how can you chew your way to cheeriness? Experts suggest prioritizing foods that contain high levels of the twelve nutrients associated with the treatment and prevention of depressive disorders (folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc). Which smile-inducing snacks should you be stocking up on?

1. Leafy Greens

According to a 2018 study published in World of Psychiatry, leafy greens are most certainly the MVPs when it comes to antidepressive nutrients. Seek out greens of the mustard, turnip, and beet variety, as well as spinach and swiss chard.  

Image Credit:    Taste of Home

Image Credit: Taste of Home

2. Shellfish

 Amidst a sea of nutritious options, oysters, mussels, clams, and crab are among the top-ranked for digestive pick-me-ups. We’ll take a half-dozen on the half shell, doctor.

Image Credit:    Chef Steps

Image Credit: Chef Steps

3. Bone Marrow & Organ Meats

Next time you’re feeling melancholy, try reaching for the poultry giblets & duck confit. If you’re after an option that with a less polarizing flavor, give nutrient-dense bone broth a go.

Image Credit:    Grassland Beef

Image Credit: Grassland Beef

4. Peppers

Sometimes spicing up your life starts in the most literal sense. Serranos, jalapeños, and bell peppers can all lead to stress relief and a much-needed mood boost.

Image Credit:    Bonnie Plants

Image Credit: Bonnie Plants

5. Cruciferous Vegetables

In addition to banishing the blues, this trendy troupe of veggies also boasts anti-inflammatory properties. Next time you’re browsing in the produce section, look for watercress, kale, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, and cauliflower.

Image Credit:    Naomi Whittel

Image Credit: Naomi Whittel

The Takeaway?

While the above foods are not a guaranteed cure-all for depression, choosing a more nourishing diet rich in antidepressive nutrients may help improve your overall mental (and physical!) health. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, you should seek advice from your doctor to determine the best course of action for you. For free, confidential mental health resources, please visit Mental Health America.