Eating habits play an important role in how your body functions and therefore, food is literally fuel for the brain as well as the body.

Plant based diets have gained popularity in recent years as a way for individuals to make a positive impact on the planet, but scientists have also found how going plant-based can improve your mood, brain function, thought patterns, and cellular and metabolic health.



High intakes of AA promote changes in the brain that can disturb a person’s mood.

Omnivorous diets, which include food derived from both plants and animals, are high in arachidonic acid (AA), and research shows that high intakes of AA promote changes in the brain that can disturb a person’s mood.

Omnivores who eat fish regularly increase their intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are fats that oppose the negative mood effects of AA. However, a recent cross-sectional study* found that vegetarians reported a significantly better mood than their omnivorous counterparts.

Basically: the researchers concluded that consuming vegan or vegetarian based diets can actually help reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.


Plant-based foods contain natural MAO inhibitors, and inhibition of monoamine oxidase is one way to treat depression and anxiety.

Additional studies further substantiate the link between good mental health and eating a plant based diet. Researchers found that depression can be linked to inflammation in the brain and chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters. The study showed that many people suffering from depression have elevated levels of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO).

AO breaks down serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters which help regulate mood. The phytochemical quercetin, found only in plant-based foods, acts as an MAO inhibitor, and inhibition of monoamine oxidase is one way to treat depression and anxiety.


Low diversity of gut microbiota is related to higher rates of obesity and diabetes, and higher diversity is related to a healthy BMI and arterial compliance, PLUS, microbiota are linked to emotion, behavior, and cognition (the brain!).

Plant based diets have been found to improve a person’s overall health and wellness** through the gut microbiota. Specifically, plant-powered diets appear to benefit health because they promote a more diverse and stable microbial system.

A diverse microbiota is linked to a healthy BMI and arterial compliance. Additionally, gut microbiota are essential to maintain healthy vitamin levels in the body.

And without diverse microbiota? Researchers found*** that low diversity in the gut is associated with diabetes and obesity.

And how does the microbiota affect the brain?

Evidence is growing to support the notion that intestinal microbiota are linked to mood, behavior, and cognition. One study† shows how microbes interact with gut cells that produce neuroactive molecules and peptides, which in turn interact with the vagus nerve and sends signals to the brain.


Plant eaters have higher empathy and self-control.

Another study‡ reported that those on a vegan or vegetarian diet showed more brain activity related to empathy, self-control, and self body awareness, and the researchers suggested the results could be attributed to varying attitudes towards life.

It’s important to recognize that there is a relationship between plant based diets and the brain and vegan and vegetarian diets and the gut-brain axis. More long-term studies in nutrition science, neuroscience, endocrinology, and psychology are necessary to better understand the full benefits of plant based diets. But for now, eating for the brain means eating lots of nutrient rich foods laden with antioxidants, phytochemicals, and foods that help support a diverse microbiota.