According to a scientific study published in 2017 on timeFew foods have a better effect on mental health than social support.
Phyllis Jacka, co-director of Food and Mood Center to Deakin University in Australia and the first author of the study, says people form a very complex and highly integrated system. “The body and brain are constantly talking to each other.”
According to Jaka, there are trillions of microbes in your digestive system, which help break down components of the food consumed and interact with different parts of the body. As they nourish the physical body, nutrient-dense foods stimulate the growth of microbes in the gut, which research shows leads to a variety of benefits, including improved mental health. In fact, a 2023 study in mice linked a certain type of bacteria found in foods like yogurt to lower stress levels and possibly a lower risk of anxiety and depression, by regulating parts of the immune system.
The power of conscious food choices
The intestine maintains a direct connection to the brain via the vagus nerve, which runs from the brainstem to the colon. Neurotransmitters that regulate mood, such as positive serotonin, are produced in the intestines. After they're secreted by the intestines, the vagus nerve acts as a “two-way texting system that's constantly passing neurotransmitters back and forth, up and down,” Naidu explains.
Although science has not yet reached definitive conclusions, some researchers suggest that zinc, found in foods such as oysters and nuts, may increase levels of a protein that promotes the growth of new brain cells. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and author of Eating to Overcome Depression and Anxiety, may improve cognitive function and mental health. He emphasizes that by eating healthy, you “provide your brain cells with all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.”
What you eat and how you live affects not only your appearance, but also your (mental) health. Nutritionist Wendy explains how a healthy lifestyle can help prevent various diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, dementia, fatigue and depression:
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