When it comes to our physical health, we know the importance of our food choices. However, in the realm of taking care of our minds, the role played by what’s on our plates is seldom discussed. That’s a shame because having a healthy diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants can significantly improve our mood, motivation, and general well-being.

Although serious mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders require appropriate management by a doctor, the positive impact that diet can have shouldn’t be neglected. In fact, making sure that we get all the vitamins and minerals we need can help our brain chemistry and makes it easier for us to take charge of our mental health.

If you’re ready to prioritize your well-being and want to manage your mental health this year, here are five diet changes for you to consider. We’ve also included a ton of healthy recipes from the Food Monster App to inspire you as a bonus!

1. Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Source: Mango, Chili, and Lime Quinoa Salad

Colorful, vibrant, and nutrient-rich — it makes sense that fruits and vegetables are good for our mood. Common sense might already have told you so, but it turns out that science backs it up as well.

Thanks to their high content in vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables have been shown to directly impact our brain chemistry. Minerals like chromium, iodine, iron, selenium, magnesium, and zinc, especially, play an important role in the production of neurotransmitters involved with mood regulation in our brain. Other nutrients found in fruit, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E are also key to optimal neurochemical functions.

Want to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals listed above? We suggest including more dark leafy greens, broccoli, root vegetables, sea vegetables, avocado, berries, and fruit into your diet as they are all great sources. You can also try out these Root Vegetables Roasted in Coconut Milk With Salted, this Winter Kale Vegetable Stew With Rutabaga Noodles, this Kohlrabi Schnitzel Burger, and this Berry and Fennel Salad With Coconut Yogurt.

2. Putting More Healthy Carbs on Your PlateRoasted Chickpea Stuffed Sweet Potatoes With Creamy Tahini Sauce

Source: Roasted Chickpea Stuffed Sweet Potatoes With Tahini Sauce

Did you know that sweet potatoes naturally contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid used by our body to produce the neurotransmitters that regulate our mood? Other sources of healthy carbohydrates, such as brown rice, oats, beans, lentils, quinoa, starchy vegetables, and squashes, also aid in the synthesis of tryptophan to produce serotonin, the feel-good hormone.

Complex carbs are typically rich in B vitamins which are essential to the maintenance of optimal neurological functions and the proper balance of neurochemicals in our brain. A deficiency in these vitamins is actually associated with an increased incidence of experiencing depressive symptoms. On the flip side, consuming more than the recommended daily amount is linked with an improvement in mood and reported mental health.

If you need recipe ideas to get your fill of healthy carbs every day, we’ve got you covered. Try out this Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili, this Warm Potato Salad With Spinach and Chickpeas, this Hearty Lentil Broccoli Bolognese, and this Sweet Potato and Quinoa Chili.

3. Increasing Your Healthy Fats Intake

Source: Grilled Avocado, Cauliflower, and Sweet Potato Power Bowl

Including healthy sources of omega-3s into our diet is important as fatty acids play a crucial role in our brain’s chemistry. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression, likely due to its effect on the conversion of chemicals our brain needs. Not sure what the best healthy fats to consume on a plant-based diet are? Some of our favorite sources include avocados, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, tahini, nuts, and nut butters, and algae.

We suggest making this Hippie Macro Glow Bowl With Maple Turmeric Tahini Dressing, this Hummus, Avocado, and Sun-dried Tomato Sandwich, these Smoky Black Bean and Hemp Seed Burgers, and this Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo With Kale and Sweet Peas to use up all these delicious plant-based fats.

4. Focusing on Greens

Source: Kale and Grilled Tomato Salad

Packed with vitamins and minerals, greens are great for our brain as folate, vitamin K, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and calcium all play a role in modulating neurotransmitter functions in our brain. Not getting enough folate and magnesium, especially, has been linked to an increase in symptoms for depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders. Making sure you include greens in your diet daily is a good way to prevent worsening of symptoms and can even help your adherence to antidepressant medication.

Looking for new and delicious ways to get your greens in? Some of our favorite recipes include this Kale Salad With Creamy Ginger Tahini Dressing, this Roasted Chickpea Caesar Salad, this Spinach Salad With Barley Bacon, and this Simple BLT Salad.

5. Including ProbioticsVegan and Gluten Free Kimchi 1

Source: How to Make Your Own Kimchi

Our gut health is not only essential for seamless digestion, it turns out that it’s also important for our brain functions. The state of our microbiome, which is the balance between good and bad bacteria that colonizes our GI tract, impacts the proper functioning of multiple neurotransmitter circuits in our brain, including those involved with mood regulation, such as GABA and serotonin. Thus, having a good dose of probiotics every day is a great way to help your body and brain achieve a healthy balance that will improve your ability to deal with the stressors of your busy life.

Want to up your intake of probiotics and help your gut and brain? You have to make these Kimchi Mushroom Burgers, this Roasted Broccoli and Sauerkraut Quesadilla, this 4-Ingredient Probiotic Oat Yogurt, and this Miso Soup With Garlicky Lentils, Kale, and Mushrooms.

We also suggest checking out Probiotic Foods You Need to Add to Your Diet and 7 Natural Ways to Boost Your Gut Health at Every Meal for more info on the best sources of gut-friendly bacteria on a plant-based diet!

Recommended Resources and RecipesVegan Grain-Free Pink Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

Source: Pink Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

Are you looking for more info on mental health, nutrition, and self-care? Here are a few articles that might interest you:

Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home

Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health, and more! Unfortunately, dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer, and has many side effects

For those interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend purchasing one of our many plant-based cookbooks or downloading the Food Monster App which has thousands of delicious recipes making it the largest vegan recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some resources to get you started:

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
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  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!