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Green Foods for Your Mental Health

fruits and vegetablesMidweek Mental Greening

In these times of uber eco-consciousness, lots of people are more willing than ever to grab a tree and give it a squeeze. Many of us have accepted that bottled water is rarely the best option, public transportation beats a gas-guzzling SUV, and recycling is just plain responsible.

Of course, not everyone’s on board with practicing environmentally friendly manners, and you can find some of the most biting controversy when you eavesdrop on a brawl conversation between a vegetarian and a meat eater.

That’s right — these two groups argue about more than just animal rights and health concerns.

On one hand, some people believe a vegetarian diet is actually “greener” for the planet (and yes, this is where global warming makes its re-entrance). E Magazine offers some disturbing statistics with The Case Against Meat, and EarthSave believes adopting a vegetarian diet “might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes.”

On the other hand, many naysayers believe everything that goes into the production of certain vegetarian and vegan foods (like soy burgers) can be just as harmful to the environment.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you do want to give vegetarianism a try. Maybe you want to see if it’ll improve your health, or you think it is more environmentally friendly. Maybe you’re just tired of eating animals. Whatever – I don’t judge. I do, however, have a list of basic vegetarian-friendly brain foods you’ll want to make sure you keep on the menu!

Vibrant Veggies

To get lots of antioxidants, munch on veggies with deep colors, like tomatoes, spinach, carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes (which may also help boost your serotonin levels). Remember, fresh is often best but not the only option.


Beans have lots of energy-promoting components like vitamins, minerals, protein, and complex carbs. You can also get Omega-3 fatty acids from certain beans like pintos and kidneys.

Whole Grains

Whole grains provide the glucose your brain needs, and the fiber helps regulate its release. The B-vitamins in whole grains are also great for your nervous system. Not big on whole grains? Start out with oatmeal. Oats have fiber, zinc, potassium, vitamin E, and B-vitamins to keep your brain performing at its best. Plus, the carbs may help boost your serotonin production.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is full of vitamin E for nervous membranes and thiamin that helps the brain and nervous systems turn glucose into energy. Despite its current prevalence in the news, most commercially jarred peanut butters do not contain salmonella. If you’re worried about it, though, other nut butters, such as almond and walnut, are plenty healthy as well. You can find them jarred or, often, in bulk at your local food co-op or health food store.


Blueberries and strawberries especially have shown assistance with improved memory, and berry seeds are sources of omega-3 fats.

Meat Alternatives

Don’t let the word “alternative” fool you; many meat alternatives, such as soy and black bean burgers, are packed with iron – the same important mineral for mental function that real meat provides.

Eggs, Milk, and Yogurt

These are iffy for some vegetarians, and outright no-nos for vegans. If you’re down with these animal products, eggs provide protein and choline (which helps with memory), while dairy products like milk and yogurt provide carbohydrates, protein, and B-vitamins that help with mental energy, brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes.

Are you a vegetarian or vegan with a favorite brain food? Or a meat-eater with a veggie-friendly food that gives you a mental boost? Feel free to share with us!

Green Foods for Your Mental Health

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2018). Green Foods for Your Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Feb 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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