Natural Delights logo

Mental Health Awareness Month: Fuel Your Body & Nourish Your Mind

May 22, 2024 | By: Natural Delights

During Mental Health Awareness Month, it's vital to recognize the symbiotic relationship between our dietary choices and mental well-being. A nutritious diet not only fuels our bodies but also nourishes our minds. This connection is particularly evident in the relationship between gut health and brain function.

What is the mind-gut connection?

Your mind and gut are like best friends because they talk to each other all the time. But how are the mind and gut connected?

One of the biggest ways the mind and gut talk is through the vagus nerve.

This is the longest cranial nerve that connects from the brain through the neck down to the stomach area. You can think of it like a corded phone because this nerve can send messages to the body and can also receive messages as well.

The gut microbiome is also another way in which the mind and gut are connected.

In your large intestine, there are various types of bacteria that naturally live here and can benefit your body; this is what we refer to as the gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome is kind of like a fingerprint because we are all a little different. Our gut bacteria have a role in the production of neurotransmitters and producing short-chain fatty acids, which is another compound that can have effects on the brain.

There are two big ways in which you can improve your mind-gut connection.

  1. Working on our stress levels: We know the role stress can play in our mental health, but it can also extend to your gut health. When we are stressed, it actually moves blood away from our digestive tract. This is why you may feel like your food isn’t settling after a stressful day.
  2. Incorporating more mindfulness: When we are mindful, we are moving with intention instead of reacting to whatever life throws in our way. Mindfulness brings us to the present moment and allows us to focus on the task at hand and not get overwhelmed.

We can use mindfulness to improve our gut health by helping us be more intentional with what we eat, like including more fiber foods, as well as being more aware of how we are feeling.

4 ways to nourish the mind-gut connection

Trying to be more self-compassionate

Image 1-2

One of the first things we can do to strengthen our mind-gut connection is to have more self-compassion. Compassion is easier to give when comforting a friend but much harder to do with ourselves.

By having more self-compassion we can create a better relationship with ourselves and become more in touch with how we are feeling. Ultimately the more self-compassion we can bring into our lives the better we can be at moving forward and building consistency with healthy habits.

Getting a variety of plants in the diet

Image 2-2

More plants in your diet can help with a more diverse gut microbiome. A lot of us stick with the same routine when we are grocery shopping so change things up the next time you pick up your produce.

You can increase variety in your diet by trying new (or forgotten about) fruits, veggies, or even whole grains. To try new foods successfully you’ll want to first research for a recipe before going to the store. Look for recipes that use flavors you love or cooking techniques you already know so you’re more likely to try and love the food.

For those who like to stick to easy, no-cook recipes you’ll want to try something simple like this 5-Ingredient Date Bark. If you know you need to eat more greens you’ll want to try this Medjool Date Green Smoothie that uses dates to add sweetness and cashews for a creamy texture.

Focusing on fiber

Image 3-1Fiber is one of the best things we can eat for better gut health. Eating more fiber doesn’t mean you have to eat big bowls of salad every day (unless you want to).

Focus on intentionally adding a fibrous food to your diet every day. We all eat fiber without thinking about it so we can close the fiber gap by being more intentional about how we eat.

Dips are some of the easiest ways to add fiber foods because you can not only have the fiber in the dip itself like with this Guacamole with Medjool Date Strips with Tajin but also with the chips or veggies you use to dip.

For all the people who love baked goods, some fiber foods work beautifully with cakes and bread. For a fiber-filled and decadent recipe, you can try Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes which uses dates for the cupcake and the frosting.

Adding pre + probiotics

Image 4-1

Two other things that can benefit your gut health are prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics are often found in fiber foods and they help feed your good gut bacteria and provide health benefits. Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your gut and have health benefits.

You can find prebiotics in foods like onions, garlic, and oats. Oats and dates work really well together in energy bites like these Date & Walnut Balls. Probiotics can be found in some fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, and in supplements. Frozen Yogurt Bark with Berries is a perfect way to add probiotics and keep you cool in the summer.


AMANDAAmanda Sauceda, MS, RD

Amanda is a dietitian who specializes in using mindfulness to improve gut health and is the creator of The Mindful Gut®. She is passionate about helping people find their version of gut-friendly so that they can build gut-healthy habits that last.


Breit S, Kupferberg A, Rogler G, Hasler G. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Mar 13;9:44. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044. PMID: 29593576; PMCID: PMC5859128.

Cherpak CE. Mindful Eating: A Review Of How The Stress-Digestion-Mindfulness Triad May Modulate And Improve Gastrointestinal And Digestive Function. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2019 Aug;18(4):48-53. PMID: 32549835; PMCID: PMC7219460.

Mhanna A, Martini N, Hmaydoosh G, Hamwi G, Jarjanazi M, Zaifah G, Kazzazo R, Haji Mohamad A, Alshehabi Z. The correlation between gut microbiota and both neurotransmitters and mental disorders: A narrative review. Medicine (Baltimore). 2024 Feb 2;103(5):e37114. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000037114. PMID: 38306525; PMCID: PMC10843545.

Silva YP, Bernardi A, Frozza RL. The Role of Short-Chain Fatty Acids From Gut Microbiota in Gut-Brain Communication. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2020 Jan 31;11:25. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2020.00025. PMID: 32082260; PMCID: PMC7005631.

Never miss the Sweet Sunshine!

Subscribe for fresh recipes, helpful tips, and exclusive offers!