I’m a total geek for the relationship between nutrition and mental health and a big believer in the gut-Brain connection. Growing research has found that there is bi-directional communication between the brain and the gut, commonly referred to as the gut-brain axis, meaning that what we eat literally fuels our mind (energy, alertness, focus, mood).
If you’ve been following along on my Instagram or the blog for some time, you know I’ve been preaching this for a while now. Over a year ago I wrote more about 5 reasons why I truly believe what you eat can improve your mental health. And since many of you have been asking follow up questions about this topic, I thought I’d gather some of the same resources that have helped inform my own journey!
So today I’m sharing with you some of the books about nutrition and the brain that expanded my perspective on holistic mental health care and have led to considerable changes in my lifestyle. I’ve also included the descriptions for each book so you can see what interests you! Enjoy!
I love this book because it makes a clear connection between how food biologically impacts the brain in a way that you can read and understand at a basic level while still doing the science justice. Dr. Uma also gives very practical tips on which foods to include on your plate for optimal brain health and how to combine them into different recipes. So if you’re looking for something both educational and applicable then “This is Your Brain on Food” is a great place to start! Plus I’ve gotten to know Dr. Uma more personally this past week and she’s a wonderful, kind, and brilliant woman who you can tell is passionate about her work and genuinely cares for those around her.
A triple threat in the food space, Dr. Uma Naidoo is a board-certified psychiatrist, nutrition specialist, and professionally trained chef. In This Is Your Brain on Food, she draws on cutting-edge research to explain the many ways in which food contributes to our mental health, and shows how a sound diet can help treat and prevent a wide range of psychological and cognitive health issues. Packed with fascinating science, actionable nutritional recommendations, and delicious, brain-healthy recipes, This Is Your Brain on Food is the go-to guide to optimizing your mental health with food.
2. The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body by Dr. Tyler Graham and Dr. Drew Ramsey
This was one of the very first books I read when I was beginning my journey to understanding food’s impact on mental health. One of the main things I love about this book is that it clearly identifies some of the essential nutrients for our brain such as Omega 3, Vitamin B, Magnesium, Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin B and so many others that Americans tend to be deficient in, which contribute to our brain’s mental wellbeing! He also expounds on the system of modern-day food processing and the common American diet that’s playing a role in many nutrient deficiencies that bring down our mental health. I recently grabbed his recipe book Eat Complete, which combines all of these essential nutrients into meals you can start including in your lifestyle. So I always recommend The Happiness Diet! Dr. Drew Ramsey is also someone I’ve gotten to chat with more personally and you can tell He is very committed to expanding nutrition-based solutions in the mental health field. I have a feeling he’s just getting started!
Using data from the rapidly changing fields of neuroscience and nutrition, The Happiness Diet shows that over the past several generations, small, seemingly insignificant changes to our diet have stripped it of nutrients—like magnesium, vitamin B12, iron, and vitamin D, as well as some very special fats—that are essential for happy, well-balanced brains. These shifts also explain the overabundance of mood-destroying foods in the average American’s diet and why they predispose most of us to excessive weight gain.
After a clear explanation of how we’ve all been led so far astray, The Happiness Diet empowers the reader to steer clear of this way of life with simple, straightforward solutions, including:
• A list of foods to swear off
• Shopping tips and kitchen organization tricks
• A compact healthy cookbook full of brain-building recipes
• Practical advice, meal plans, and more!
3. The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health by Dr. Emeran Mayer
What I love about this book is that it takes another perspective on this topic from a GI (Gastrointestinal) doctor who is looking at the impact on mental health from the workings of the gut. I felt like he also laid out the connection of communication between the gut and brain very clearly and gave me that initial lightbulb moment where I first began to literally understand how food and the brain impact each other. He talks more in-depth about the microbiome, which is the collection of bacteria that keep our gut healthy and therefore the production of neurotransmitters and signals to the brain healthy. I would say this book is definitely a must-read in collection to getting a full understanding of the gut-brain connection.
In The Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer, executive director of the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress, offers a revolutionary look at this developing science, teaching us how to harness the power of the mind-gut connection to take charge of our health.
The Mind-Gut Connection shows how to keep the brain-gut communication clear and balanced to:
• balance the microbiome by consuming fermented foods and probiotics, fasting, and cutting out sugar and processed foods
• boost immunity and prevent the onset of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
• generate a happier mindset and reduce fatigue, moodiness, anxiety, and depression
• prevent and heal GI disorders such as leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivities and allergies, and IBS, as well as digestive discomfort such as heartburn and bloating, and much more.
I was led to this book after hearing a fascinating lecture from Dr. Cortright about neurogenesis, the ability to produce new brain cells. So this mainly comes from the perspective that certain dietary and lifestyle habits contribute to more brain cell growth which optimizes your brain and helps improves mental health and brainpower, among a host of other health benefits. I would recommend this for another perspective on the food and mental health connection that’s very fascinating and does far more justice than this summary.
The Neurogenesis Diet and Lifestyle brings together the latest in neuroscience research to present a new and proven view of brain health and aging. Only recently has it been discovered that the brain produces new brain cells throughout our entire lives, a process called neurogenesis. The rate at which we form new brain cells has a profound influence upon every aspect of our life. When the rate of neurogenesis is low, we see cognitive deficits and memory problems, anxiety and stress, depression, and lowered immunity. Life is difficult.
This book presents the latest neuroscience discoveries to increase brain power, enhance memory, increase brain fitness by seeing what kinds of brain exercises actually work, and build a better brain. It contains dietary recommendations for brain food, brain vitamins, brain supplements, memory vitamins and memory supplements.
5. Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere
I was originally led to Max Lugavere from an interview he gave on one of my regular podcasts listens “Broken Brain” with Dhru Purohit. Max Lugavere has recently been one of the leading voices on nutrition choices and their impact on brain health in the online world and directly aims to clarify misinformation in the food industry. This is another read that really helps tie in the holistic perspective of how certain dietary choices can help or hurt overall mental wellness and help you think more critically about the food industry at large.
Discover the critical link between your brain and the food you eat and change the way your brain ages, in this cutting-edge, practical guide to eliminating brain fog, optimizing brain health, and achieving peak mental performance from media personality and leading voice in health Max Lugavere.
In Genius Foods, Lugavere presents a comprehensive guide to brain optimization. He uncovers the stunning link between our dietary and lifestyle choices and our brain functions, revealing how the foods you eat directly affect your ability to focus, learn, remember, create, analyze new ideas, and maintain a balanced mood. Weaving together pioneering research on dementia prevention, cognitive optimization, and nutritional psychiatry, Lugavere distills groundbreaking science into actionable lifestyle changes.
I hope you found these recommendations helpful! Have you been interested in the mind-gut connection? Are there any other books on the relationship between food and mental health that you’d recommend? Be sure to drop them in the comments below!