Springfield, Mo. — You are what you eat. We have all heard that before. And that goes not only for your physical health, but it turns out, your mental health, too. 

The foods you eat can help or worsen conditions like depression or anxiety. 

A registered dietitian with Hy-Vee, Amanda Allen, says the nutrients in certain foods directly impact brain health.

“And the first thing that we need to talk about is gut health,” she said. “There’s this thing called a gut-brain axis. So if our gut is inflamed or there’s an imbalance, then we cannot absorb the nutrients our brain needs. So, we can see higher depression, higher anxiety.”   

Allen says 95 percent of serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is our “feel good” hormone.  

“If you are not having that nourishment in your gut, you are not going to have that “feel good” hormone,” Allen said. 

Allen says magnesium is directly related to serotonin, so getting magnesium is critical for mental health. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are also essential since they create cell membranes. In addition, according to Harvard School of Public Health, omega-3 fatty acids help “hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.”

What foods contain these nutrients?

You can find magnesium in pumpkin seeds and cacao powder, for example. 

Omega-3 fatty acids: seafood. Allen recommends eating fish twice a week. 

Chia seeds. You can put them in a smoothie, a salad or salad dressing, mix with your snacks like almond butter. 

And make sure to eat lots of fiber, fruits and vegetables. 

What to avoid? 

Too much sugar, too many fried foods, a pro-inflammatory diet that includes vegetable oil, 

Questions? You can find Amanda Allen at the Springfield Hy-Vee or email her here.