CBSN

Can eating the right foods help boost your mental health?

Sticking to certain foods and a healthy diet isn't just good for your physical health, it may also have a positive impact on your mental state. Shannon Drenick says she's seen this firsthand. For years, she suffered from depression and anxiety.

But today, she doesn't need medications, and she credits her strict, nutrient-rich diet full of dark leafy greens, protein and healthy fats. It was her doctor's recommendation and she says it has significantly improved her mental health.

"I honestly think it was a game-changer for me with her," Drenick told CBS News.

There is emerging evidence that nutritional psychiatry – or using diet to treat mood disorders, such as depression –  may be beneficial.

Dr. Eva Selhub has been treating Drenick for 14 years. 

"Remember your brain needs fuel, and even though it's a very small part of your body, it takes 20 percent of your fuel," she said.

Selhub says that fuel directly affects the structure and function of the brain, ultimately affecting mood.

She also prescribes fermented foods, such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles, and kombucha, and probiotics for gut benefits, which she says can help reduce anxiety levels and stress. She recommends the Mediterranean diet or a Japanese-style diet,  high in fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and proteins and fats.

With that, Drenick says, "We see that depression is alleviated, we have more energy, we're more positive, and we're happier."

Drenick's typical lunch includes kale, chicken, and avocado. She exercises regularly and says she hasn't had a panic attack in years.

"I feel healthy. I feel happy," she said.

She says it takes discipline to stick to the plan but when she's on track she's never felt better.