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Anxiety and Nutrition: Eating for Mental Health

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

We all know eating healthy can help with our physical health. But did you ever think that eating healthy could improve your mental health?

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you had to rate your mental health on a scale of 1-10 (1 being anxious and 10 being calm) where would you rate it?

Mental health problems are psychological and can stem from our thoughts. But they are also physiological and can result from an imbalance in our body.

When I work with clients who struggle with anxiety and mood issues, I usually find three things.

  1. They don’t eat a healthy diet and aren't getting enough nutrition

  2. They aren’t eating enough food to get all the nutrition their body needs

  3. They aren't absorbing the nutrients in their food

You might be hesitant to believe that what you eat affects your mental health, but I am going to explain how it does.

Think of your body like a machine. Every second, thousands of chemical reactions are taking place to keep you alive. In order for these reactions to take place, your body uses nutrients!

Nutrition 101

We can break nutrition down into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients include proteins, carbs and fats. These nutrients provide the body with energy in the form of calories.

Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are calorie free and don't provide the body with energy. Instead, they are necessary for chemical reactions to take place.

Nutrients depend on one another to work. If they are out of balance, the entire system gets thrown off and your body doesn't function like it should!

Neurotransmitters and Nutrients

Neurotransmitters play a significant role in mental health. These compounds send signals back and forth between nerves and need the right nutrients to do so!

You’ve probably heard of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It’s one of the most talked about compounds needed for sleep and mood stability. Let’s look at how it’s produced in the body.

To produce serotonin, the body uses an amino acid, called tryptophan. Our body can get tryptophan through food. Protein sources like eggs, chicken and turkey are all high in this amino acid.

In order for your body to turn tryptophan into serotonin, it requires the vitamin Niacin. Niacin is one of the B vitamins. Our body needs iron, magnesium, vitamin B6 and B2 to create niacin.

That’s 6 different nutrients that go into producing serotonin! If one is off, your body can't produce this neurotransmitter, and it results in mood imbalances and other symptoms.

Don’t let this example overwhelm or confuse you. Let it open your eyes to how complex our bodies are and the importance of nutrition.

So what can you do to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for your body to function? Here are 8 simple tips!

Eight Simple Tips for Better Nutrition

  1. Eat whole foods. Fortunately, God gave us all the nutrients our bodies need to thrive with whole foods. Whole foods are foods in their most natural form. If you can pick it, pluck it, milk it, or shoot it, you can eat it! You can find most of your whole foods around the perimeter of the grocery store. Think fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and meats.

  2. Limit processed foods. Packaged and processed foods should be limited. Processed food gives you energy through calories, but offers little nutritional value because of all the processing. These foods are also full of additives and preservatives that your body doesn't recognize.

  3. Eat foods in season. When fruits or vegetables get picked early, they don't have as much nutrition. Produce that is in season is nutrient dense because it has matured on the plant. Do a quick google search to find out what foods are in season in your area before making your grocery list.

  4. Consume ample amounts of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. My favorite types of produce to incorporate daily are dark leafy greens and berries.

  5. Eat high-quality animal protein. Proteins are the building blocks for everything in our bodies! Meat is one of the most nutrient dense food options available to us. Eggs, poultry, red meat, and seafood are all great protein options. When choosing your protein, keep in mind quality matters. Make sure it's organic, grass fed and raised without hormones or antibiotics.

  6. Consume healthy fats. Don’t skimp on fat. Fat is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K . Healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and grass-fed butter. Limit oils like canola oil, vegetable oil, and sunflower oil. These are high in omega-6 fatty acids and are inflammatory.

  7. Eat a variety of foods. Variety is key! Switch up the foods you are eating to ensure you are getting a balance of all the nutrients. Challenge yourself to buy a new vegetable at the market each week or try out a new protein.

  8. Maintain a healthy gut. It's not only about what you eat, but what you absorb! If your gut microbiome is out of balance, your body won't be able to digest the healthy food you're eating. To support your gut, add in probiotic foods like kefir, kombucha, pickled vegetables and sauerkraut.

Top Foods For Anxiety to Add Into Your Diet


Oysters are high in zinc, a mineral that is important for neurotransmitter function and stress management. Research has suggested that an imbalance of this can contribute to anxiety.


Turkey contains the amino acid Tryptophan, a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps you to feel calm.

Organ meats

Organ meat may sound gross, but it’s extremely high in nutrients. Liver provides ample amounts of zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin B, all essential nutrients needed for beating anxiety and regulating moods.


This fruit is great for brain health. It helps to lower blood pressure because of its potassium content.


This vegetable is high in folate. Low levels of folate are linked to neurotransmitter impairment, which can cause you to feel more anxious.

Leafy greens

Dark leafy greens are high in the mineral magnesium, which is essential for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body! Including reactions that regulate your mood.

Wild- Caught Salmon & Grass-Fed Beef.

Salmon and beef are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for healthy hormones that help support brain function.

Closing Thoughts

Nutrition matters! If our body doesn't have the tools it needs to do it's job, it tells us! If you want a simple way to put these tips into action, download my free ebook: 5 Nutritional Shifts to Beat Anxiety + Example Meal Plan. Cheers to having more calm and stable moods!

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