Does Food Impact Our Mental Health?

Seared Scallops with Chives in a Cast Iron pan

Can what we eat really impact our mental health?

The answer is a definitive “Yes!” Nutrients such as omega 3 fats, vitamin K, folate, Beta carotene, as well as a host of phytochemicals, play a key role in maintaining our mental health. Food choice can slow cognitive decline and decrease anxiety and depression. Researchers at Rush University found that the MIND diet, a combination of a Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, lowered risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53%. Further, the SMILES trial identified a significant decrease in depression symptoms for individuals with moderate to severe depression when provided with nutrition counseling sessions to improve the quality of their diet, compared to participants receiving traditional interventions.

Which Foods Are Helpful to Mental Health?

Plants, of course. A clever way to remember what foods can help brain health is a short rhyme by Drew Ramsey, MD, a psychiatrist at Columbia University: Seafood, greens, nuts and beans, and a little bit of dark chocolate.

Try this recipe to improve your mental health and have a bit of dark chocolate for dessert.

Scallops, Greens and Beans


  • 2 strips of bacon (for flavor, but can be omitted, if desired)
  • ½ pound scallops or shrimp, thawed
  • Flour
  • Salt or seasoning salt of your choice
  • Pepper
  • Canola oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7-8 ounce spinach or arugula
  • 1 cup white beans, cooked (or 14 oz can drained and rinsed)
  • Polenta (see recipe below or purchase premade)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Almonds or pine nuts, toasted
  • Lemon juice



  1. Bring 2 cups of water or stock to a boil.  Add ½ cup cornmeal to the water, whisk in to break up lumps, simmer until creamy for 20 to 40 min.
  2. Add butter and salt to taste. Set aside.


  1. Fry two strips of bacon, remove from pan. Reserve bacon fat.
  2. Toss seafood lightly with flour seasoning mix.
  3. On medium heat, cook seafood in canola oil plus a bit of the bacon fat for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove seafood and set aside.
  4. Add remaining bacon fat to pan. Cook onions until translucent.
  5. Add garlic and cook two minutes. Turn burner to medium low, add greens. Stir until wilted.
  6. Add beans to greens and warm. Chop up the two slices of bacon and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Slice polenta into one centimeter disks and warm on a skillet.
  8. Place polenta on a plate, cover with the greens and beans mixture, add scallops and top with toasted pine nuts or chopped almonds.
  9. Top with lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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