Mental Health Nutrition

Nutrients for Good Mental Health.

Good mental health requires a good diet. Like the age old saying goes “you are what you eat”.  And the one I keep chanting about “Food is Medicine”. A balanced nutrient dense diet is the basis of good health. But there are a couple of key nutrients that can make a big difference to your mental health.

  1. Magnesium – this one is a beauty. This mineral is heavily depleted due to our modern-day farming practices, so nearly everyone I see has signs of deficiency. It is one nutrient I am happy to tell people to take.

What does it do? In your mental health magnesium helps to break down your amino acids so that you have the right type of neurotransmitters. These are the guys needed for good mental health, neurotransmitters such as dopamine (motivation), serotonin (mood and sleep) and gaba (calming). This guy is involved in many different enzymatic reactions in the body.

Signs of deficiency: Quite a list here.

Mental disturbances • Inability to sleep or insomnia • Sensitivity to noise • Anxiety, depression or restlessness • Infertility or PMS • Heart “flutters” or palpitations • Fatigue or unusual tiredness • Coldness in extremities • Fuzzy brain or difficulty concentrating • Body odour • Bad short term memory • Constipation • Frequent cavities or poor dental health • Gut disorders.

Foods it is found in:

1.Spinach (100gms = 87MG)

  1. Chard (100gms = 30MG)
  2. Pumpkin Seeds (100gms = 535MG)
  3. Yogurt full fat (100gms= 17MG)
  4. Almonds (100gms = 260MG)
  5. Black beans (1/2 cup = 60MG)
  6. Avocado (100gms = 27MG)
  7. Figs (100gms = 73MG)
  8. Dark Chocolate (100gms = 120MG)
  9. Bananas (1 med = 31MG)

Ever wondered why you crave that chocolate?? Magnesium! Theobroma Cacoa the official name for cacao, is used in some of our practitioner products around mood support. This is because this product contains high levels of magnesium along with active components such as dopamine and serotonin. It has a strong ability to attach to your dopamine (D3) receptor which is involved in your reward pathway. So next time you crave that piece of chocolate maybe think about magnesium.

  1. Vitamin B6: This guy is also involved in the breakdown of your proteins to amino acids and further into your neurotransmitters. It is specific for a few pathways, and if you have ever heard of pyrroles or mauve disease, then this guy is one of the culprits. B6 is the co-factor for over 100 reactions in the body.

Where do you find B6: this one cannot be produced by the body and needs to come in via food. So eating avocados, bananas, beef, carrot, chicken, eggs, legumes, fish, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables should help.

  1. Zinc: this is another mineral that I often see a deficiency in but is not a nutrient that I would suggest everyone to take. It needs a good diagnosis beforehand. This guy is a cofactor to over 300 different reactions in the body, so you can see a bit of a work horse.

Zinc is needed along with the other 2 nutrients above to have productive healthy neurotransmitter production. Zinc is also helpful in the digestive system by healing the inner gut wall and allowing nutrients to be absorbed and utilized better.

What does it do? Zinc is involved in many different areas and along with mental health it plays are role in immune health, wound healing, gut repair, hormonal health, skin health, Controls release Vitamin A and retinal binding protein, Metabolises EFA’s and is involved in thyroid health. So, you can see it is a busy little mineral.

Where do you find it? Oysters, seafood, wheatgerm, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seed, chia seeds, beef, lamb, dark chocolate, garlic and chickpeas.

Stress is another area that needs a mention as it can deplete magnesium and B6. So when you have someone that is suffering with some type of stress or anxiety, and they have a diet low in these nutrients, they may drink lots of coffee (a big magnesium depleter) and bamm! You have a very magnesium depleted person that will have no way of breaking down those neurotransmitters and will probably have sleep issues along with mood issues and many other side effects as well.

So there are many other nutrients that impact on mental health but these 3 are a good start. I would love to see anyone who has a mood disorder given some magnesium, a good multi B complex and some zinc before heading down the pharmaceutical pathway. You might be surprised at how it can improve mental health.


This article was authored by Jan Caton BHSc-Nat, AssDip-HSc-Holistic Kinesiology, owner and Naturopath of Magnolia Apothecary, owner of The Conscious Spender.

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