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Nourishing Your Mind: The Connection Between Mental Health and Food

May 3, 2023 | By: Natural Delights

In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the connection between mental health and food. While it's well-known that a healthy diet is important for physical well-being, emerging research suggests that the foods we eat can also impact our mental health. Here are a few of the many reasons we love incorporating Medjool dates and other brain-fueling foods into our diet. 

The Gut-Brain Connection

Our gut, often referred to as the "second brain," is home to trillions of bacteria that make up our gut microbiome. Emerging research has shown the health of our gut microbiome plays a crucial role in our mental health. The gut and brain are connected through a complex network of nerves, hormones, and chemicals that communicate bidirectionally. This means that the health of our gut can influence our brain, and vice versa. A healthy gut microbiome, supported by a diet rich in fiber, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, has been linked to improved mental health outcomes, including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Did you know that Medjool dates are a prebiotic food that supports a healthy gut? Check out this resource from registered dietitian Ashley Oswald to further explore gut health and why certain foods, like Medjool dates, are important to incorporate for a healthy gut, and ultimately, healthy mind. 



Nutrients for Brain Health

While regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline, our brain also requires a wide range of nutrients to function optimally. These include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain and improve mood. B vitamins, found in whole grains, leafy greens, and eggs, play a key role in the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals that transmit signals in the brain, and are essential for maintaining mental health. Antioxidants, found in Medjool dates, help protect the brain from oxidative stress, which has been implicated in mental health disorders. Minerals like magnesium and zinc, found in nuts, seeds, and legumes, are important for nerve function and can impact mood regulation.

Learn more about food and brain health from Nutritional Psychiatrist and author Drew Ramsey, and check out his most recent book Eat to Beat Depression & Anxiety for additional resources.

The Role of Sugar and Processed Foods

On the other hand, a diet high in sugar and processed foods has been associated with increased risk of mental health disorders. A diet full of added sugars and unhealthy fats can lead to inflammation in the body, including the brain, and disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. This can potentially contribute to mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, sugar and processed foods can cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, which can negatively affect mood and energy levels. It's important to be mindful of the amount of added sugars and processed foods in your diet and aim to minimize their consumption for optimal mental health.

Check out our Easy Sugar Swaps resource guide from registered dietitian Abby Langer as well as our recipe library, where many recipes utilize Medjool dates as a natural sugar substitute for processed sugars. In many instances, replacing refined sugars with date paste or date syrup is a simple 1:1 ratio and adds potassium, magnesium, dietary fiber, and antioxidants to your snacks and meals.

While these are just a few of the many correlations between food and mental health, there are endless resources for those seeking to better understand their unique mental health needs. We encourage you to seek support from a registered dietitian and mental health professional.



Meet Bridgette Weber, trade marketing manager at Natural Delights. Bridgette is a newlywed and recent transplant to the Chicago area where she enjoys getting outdoors for a scenic hike or taking it indoors with hot yoga. She’s a foodie at heart and loves finding a good healthy hack to help her enjoy great tasting foods without sacrificing nutrition.
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