Eating Right: Foods That Improve Mental Health


When we eat, we often think about how many calories are in certain foods, or how much good fat vs. bad fat our favorite dishes may contain. We rarely think about how certain foods affect our mental health and overall brain functioning. While there are foods that can help boost our memories, studies have begun to show that certain food groups can help not only with memory function but can also increase mental health. There are five food groups that have been proven to help improve symptoms of disorders like depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and more.


Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce some symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, and ADHD. If you suffer from these disorders, incorporating foods like salmon, mackerel, or other wild cold water fish into your meal plan can help gain control over some symptoms.



The brain is fueled by its primary energy source, glucose, which is present in carbohydrates or carbs. However, if you suffer from mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, not all carbs are good for you. Simple carbs release glucose quickly which can heighten low moods due to spikes in blood sugar. Complex carbs release glucose less quickly and allow your brain and body the time to properly process it. Foods like whole wheat, wild rice, beans, and soy are all good examples of complex carbs and can help regulate mood swings.

Serotonin is a chemical, produced by nerve cells, that helps regulate things in the body like the digestive system, motor skills, mood, and more. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression. Lean proteins contain an essential amino acid called tryptophan which serotonin is made from, therefore increasing your intake of lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, and fish can help balance out your serotonin levels and improve your mood.

Folate is the body’s natural form of folic acid. Studies have linked deficiencies in folate tospinach-1322074 depression, fatigue, and insomnia. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli are great foods to add to your diet to increase your folate levels.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating communication between brain cells. GABA inhibits the activity of neurons and helps control the body’s response to stress, which helps control fear and anxiety.

peach-dessert-1-1508604Probiotics are bacteria strains that help the body’s digestive system, however, there are some probiotics that are categorized as psychobiotics. These live organisms have shown to produce health benefits in patients suffering from psychiatric illnesses by creating various biologically active compounds, such as neurotransmitters like GABA. Although the studies are fairly recent, they have shown that an increase in probiotics can improve the mental health of patients suffering from depression and anxiety.
Incorporating these foods into your diet may seem like a daunting task, but meal planning is a simple way to help ensure that every food group is accounted for. Mayo Clinic suggests:

To get started, jot down some of your favorite meals. Cooking for a family? Ask them to suggest menu ideas, too. For more inspiration, flip through cookbooks or check out recipe websites. You can even find sample menus and menu-planning apps online. Plan a week of meals at a time. Be sure to include side dishes as well as entrees and some healthy desserts, too. When you have your menu plan filled in, create a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need.

Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc. also helps make the meal planning process simple with our weekly meal planner. Access the planner and other healthy eating tools here:


About Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.:

Established in 2002 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, BHPI is a Managed Behavioral Health Organization offering behavioral health services through a fully integrated network of world-class healthcare providers.  Our emphasis is on adding value for our customers by offering expert behavioral care management, medical coordination, and behavioral disease and chronic behavioral condition management.  BHPI offers collaborative solutions by building strong partnerships with health plans, health systems, community mental health organizations, and employer groups.   For more information