Duluth TMS | TMS Therapy for Depression and TMS Therapy For Anxious Depression

Your Brain and Your Diet

December 19, 2022

Your brain is always working.  Your brain takes care of your movements, thoughts, heartbeat, senses, and your breathing.  Your brain works 24/7, even while you’re asleep. 

Your brain works hard, and it requires a constant supply of fuel. This fuel comes from the foods that you eat, and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. In other words, what you eat directly affects the functions of your brain and ultimately your mood.

Eating high-quality foods that contain vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals nourishes and protects your brain.  Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain.  In addition, they worsen your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.  

Unfortunately, just like an expensive car, your brain can’t perform if you ingest anything other than premium fuel.  If "low-premium" fuel (for example, processed or refined foods get to the brain, the brain has little ability to get rid of them). 

If your brain is deprived of good-quality nutrition, and is being fed the wrong food.  You are giving room to damaging inflammatory cells to circulate within your brain’s enclosed space, contributing to brain tissue injury, and the consequences are to be expected. What’s interesting is that for years, medical experts in this field did not fully acknowledge the connection between food.

Fortunately, the burgeoning field of nutritional psychiatry is finding that there are many correlations between what you eat, how you feel, how you behave, and the kind of bacteria that lives in your gut.

The Foods You eEat Affect Your Mental Health

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your sleep and your appetite, your moods, and inhibits pain. About 95% of your serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, and the gastrointestinal tract is lined with nerve cells, or neurons.  The inner workings of the digestive system not only help digest food, they also guide your emotions. 

The production of neurotransmitters like serotonin is highly influenced by the good bacteria that is found in the intestinal microbiome. These good bacteria play an essential role in the digestive health by protecting the lining of the intestines and ensuring a strong barrier against toxins and bad bacteria.  They limit inflammation, and improve the absorption of nutrients from food; and they activate neural pathways that travel between the gut and the brain.

Studies have compared some diets, such as the Mediterranean and the Japanese diet, to a typical "Western" diet and show that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.  Scientists believe that the reason why there’s a difference is because these traditional diets tend to be rich in vegetables, fruits, fish and seafood, unprocessed grains and contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. They also avoid processed and refined foods and sugars. In addition, they also consumed unprocessed foods that are fermented, acting as natural probiotics.

Good bacteria not only influence what your gut digests and absorbs.  Good bacteria also affects the degree of inflammation throughout your body, as well as your mood and energy levels.

Nutritional psychiatry: What does this mean

Try eating different foods and see how that makes you feel.  Not just in the moment, but for a week or two. Try eating a "clean diet" and avoid all processed foods and sugar.  See how that makes you feel. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and pay attention to how you feel.  

When people decide to “go clean” they are surprised at how much better they feel, not only physically but emotionally as well and how much worse they feel once they go back to their old diet.  

Here are some foods that will help you fight depression:

Clams and Mussels

These seafood favorites are a good source of B-12. Studies say that people with low levels of vitamins are more likely to suffer from depression. It may be that a lack of certain vitamins causes a shortage of a substance called s-adenosylmethionine (SAM), which your brain needs to process other chemicals that affect your mood. It is involved in many important processes.  s-adenosylmethionine (SAM)  breaks down the brain chemicals, such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine.  If you’re looking for other B-12 foods, try lean beef, milk, and eggs.

Brazil Nuts

These nuts are rich in selenium, which  protects your body from the tiny damaging particles called free radicals. Studies found that young people who don’t consume enough  nutrients in their diets are more likely to suffer from depression.  Selenium is an essential component of various enzymes and proteins, called selenoproteins. Selenoprotenins protect against cell damage and infections, and help to make DNA. 

These proteins are also involved in reproduction and the metabolism of thyroid hormones. The research couldn’t say that low selenium caused depression.  But generally, people with the lowest levels of serum selenium had the highest risk for thyroid disorders including hypothyroidism, subclinical hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis and enlarged thyroid.  People who suffer from thyroid disorders are more prone to suffer from mood changes.  Just one Brazil nut has almost half of the daily requirement of the mineral, so be careful to limit how many you eat.  Other foods with this mineral include brown rice, lean beef, sunflower seeds, and seafood.


It’s a good source of vitamin D. If you have very low levels of this nutrient in your body, that can sometimes cause depression. One Norwegian study found that people who took a vitamin D supplement were less depressed a year later than those who didn’t. Don’t like milk? Boost the D in your diet with other food such as cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna fish, orange juice fortified with vitamin D, sardines, beef liver, egg yolks, fortified cereals. 


Believe it or not the traditional Thanksgiving bird has the protein building-block called tryptophan, which your body uses to make serotonin. That's a brain chemical that plays a key role in depression, researchers say. In fact, some antidepressant drugs work by targeting the way your brain uses serotonin. Tryptophan is an amino acid needed for normal growth in infants.  Tryptophan is needed for the production and maintenance of the body's proteins, muscles, enzymes, and neurotransmitters.  It is an essential amino acid and our body cannot produce it by itself.  With that being said, we must get it from our diet.  We can get the same mood-boosting effect from chicken and soybeans.  Other foods that also contain this protein are eggs, cheese, fish, peanuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, milk, tofu and soy. 


Carros are full of beta-carotene.  Beta -carotene is a substance found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and in dark green, leafy vegetables.  The human body can make vitamin A from beta carotene.  Beta carotene is being studied in the prevention of some types of cancer.  It is also a type of antioxidant.  In the body, beta-carotene converts into vitamin A (retinol).  We need vitamin A for good vision and eye health, for a strong immune system, and for healthy skin and mucous membranes. You can get beta-carotene from pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe. Studies have linked this nutrient to lower levels of depression, but there’s not enough evidence to say that it can prevent the disorder, but it can’t hurt to get more in your diet.  Other foods that contain beta-carotene are butternut squash, cantaloupe, romaine lettuce, red bell peppers, apricots, broccoli, and podded peas.  

Avoid beta-carotene from supplements. While eating a lot of beta-carotene in foods is considered harmless, beta-carotene in the form of supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.  Beta-carotene supplements are especially risky for pregnant and breast-feeding women, those who have had angioplasty, or those who have had asbestos exposure, and smokers.

Again, these risks only come from the form of beta-carotene found in supplements, and in high doses. Beta-carotene from foods is considered safe and healthy. Only consume beta-carotene supplements under the supervision of a medical professional.


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