Top 5 Foods that Promote Mental Health

bowl containing Strawberries, Banana slices, Nuts, berries etc

Mental disorder is the leading cause of death worldwide, outnumbering both cardiovascular disease and cancer in terms of morbidity. According to studies, consuming a heavily refined diet with a heavy intake of fast food is linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Evidence-based preventive interventions, such as dietary changes, can help people improve their mental health and reduce the burden of mental illness. Several foods have been shown to be helpful to mental health. Here are 5 foods that promote mental health:

1. Vegetables

Foods  that promote mental health: Vegetables
Vegetables | Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

Vegetables have been shown to improve mental health in several studies. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables can improve mental well-being, according to a systematic review published in Nutrients that included 61 studies. The authors recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The studies included, however, used a variety of methodologies that prevented the researchers from conducting a meta-analysis (a grouped analysis of the studies), and the majority of the studies were observational.

2. Olive Oil

Bowl containing Olive Oil
Olive oil | Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as antioxidants. The Primed trial looked at the effects of the Mediterranean diet by dividing participants into three groups: one that followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, another that followed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil, and the third that followed a low-fat diet. In cognitive tests, the group that obtained extra virgin olive oil performed better than the control group.

3. Nuts

Nuts, Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts
Nuts | Image by ExplorerBob from Pixabay

Nuts are nutritious snacks that are good for the brain because it is abundant with contents such as Mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega3 fatty acids, and tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. Nuts’ effects on perception have been observed in both animals and humans, and they are commonly consumed as part of a Mediterranean diet. The findings suggest that nut consumption improves memory, depressive symptoms, and cognition; however, human research is limited.

4. Whole Grains

Whole Grains
Grains | Image by $uraj tripathi from Pixabay

Fibre, antioxidants, and vitamin B are all abundant in whole grains. These compounds have been shown to be helpful to mental health. The effects of whole-grain intake on anxiety and depression were investigated in a cross-sectional study of 3,172 adults in Iran. Women with a moderate intake of whole grains have been shown to have fewer signs of anxiety and depression.

5. Dates

Fresh Dates, foods that promote mental health
Dates | Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

Dates have high nutritional value and are high in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. The effect of giving mice a date supplement on their memory, cognition, and amyloid-beta levels was investigated in a mouse study. The researchers discovered that mice fed dates had stronger memory and lower levels of amyloid-beta (a major component of the neural plaques present in Alzheimer’s disease).  Human studies are required to validate these findings, which may be useful in preventing or reducing the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Hence dates are one of the important foods that promote mental health.


Berries | Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Inflammation has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases and ageing-related changes, according to research. Berries including strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are high in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which can scavenge free radicals (inflammatory chemicals) and have an anti-inflammatory impact, potentially protecting against cognitive decline.

Fatty Fish

Cooked fatty fish in a plate
Fish | Image by Stephanie Albert from Pixabay

Omega3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health, are abundant in fatty fish. The Mediterranean diet includes a lot of fatty fish. A randomised controlled trial on patients with depressive symptoms published in Nutritional Neuroscience was led by researchers. A total of 152 patients were enrolled in the study, with one group receiving a Mediterranean diet supplemented with fish oil and the other group attending bimonthly social groups.

The Mediterranean diet group had less depression and anxiety, also a stronger quality of life, after three months and a six-month follow-up. Given the fact that this is a small study with some limitations, the results are consistent with the increasing body of evidence that the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial impact on mental health.

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