Food and Mental health

Cat Prestipino
5min read

45% of Australians have experienced a mental health disorder, and in today's uncertain times it’s a good time to reflect on where you are in your mental health journey.

Lifestyle is one of the biggest contributing factors to mental wellness. More research is starting to highlight the strong link between a healthy diet and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Makes sense right? For healthy organs, including your brain, you need to feed them the right stuff.

But more and more, we’re understanding the relationship between our stomachs and our heads. A troubled brain can lead to a troubled tummy and vice versa. To quote accredited nutritionist Brittany Darling from Caia Live: Mental Health Month, “The bugs talk!”

Serotonin is one of the most important chemicals that your body produces. It helps with everything in the body from mood to muscle function and low serotonin has been linked with depression, anxiety, and nausea.

Want to know why nausea makes the list? 90% of serotonin is actually produced in your gut and then transported to your brain! Eating the right stuff makes sure that you’re producing the right level of serotonin to regulate your mood, help you sleep, help your appetite and even inhibit pain.

Ever wondered why when you feel nervous you always need to go to the bathroom? Stress (or depression or anxiety) actually causes your gastrointestinal (or GI) tract to move and contract and in some cases, become inflamed - another thing that can cause damage to your mental health.

So what should you be eating to keep producing the right levels this wonder drug, serotonin, and ensure optimal health for your organs?

Colourful fruits and vegetables

These are complex carbohydrates and release slowly into our system to avoid blood sugar spikes. They're rich in rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Think leafy greens, carrots and apples, mangos, berries… What’s more, eating the rainbow is bound to make you smile 😁

Turmeric is another unsung hero. Few have survived the test of time quite like turmeric, arguably the most well-studied dietary supplement in modern natural medicine.


Omega-3 fatty acids like those found in oily fish (think salmon, tuna and mackerel) and nuts (particularly walnuts) are great for boosting brain cells and brain connections. This will help boost your memory as well as your mood.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods and probiotics are like a super injection of good gut bacteria. Think yoghurt, miso, kimchi, sourdough, kombucha, sauerkraut or really any pickled veggies.


Wholegrains are a good source of folic acid which can reduce depressive symptoms and improve cognitive function. Get your wholegrains in bread, pasta or rice.

There are also some things you should cut back on that could hurt your mental health:


We drink at fun occasions but alcohol is actually a depressant. It slows your body down and changes the chemical makeup of your brain to alter your mood, energy levels and can really affect your sleep.

Processed Sugar

A little bit of sugar? Fine. The quantities found in most modern diets? Less so. Many forms of processed sugar have made their way into our diets through cereals, condiments (like tomato sauce and salad dressing), pasta sauce and pre-made soups. Our neurons are very sensitive to sugar spikes and can be damaged from the perpetual sugar roller coaster. Avoiding processed or excess amounts of sugar can help keep those spikes under control.

Fatty Foods

Not all fats are created equal. While we need omega-3 fatty acids, common saturated fats (like palm oil) affect our hormones. Our hormones regulate the chemicals that control our emotions, like dopamine, and too many fatty foods can throw things out of whack.

Want to know more about how a healthy diet could help your mental wellness? Why not book a 10 minutes one on one consultation with one of our Caia Dietitian or Nutritionist and make a plan to help your mental health by helping your diet.