a man grinning while eating

These Specific Foods Support Your Mental Health, According to a Psychiatrist

06.05.2024 — The frens(he) editors

Can what you eat affect your mental health? Drew Ramsey, MD says yes. As a pioneer in the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry, his work explores the relationship between nutrition, brain health, and mental well-being. His most recent book, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety, outlines how to eat brain-boosting foods—and it’s a must-read for any man looking to improve his mental health. Here, in his own words, Dr. Ramsey explains why kicking depression’s ass is less about pounding protein shakes and more about cooking dinner at home.

Modern masculinity rests on phenomenal mental health. You just cannot be a man in the modern world and survive and excel without taking exceptionally good care of your mental health. And you can’t have mental health without a well nourished, well-lubricated brain. Focusing on brain health as the first step in mental health—it’s just a scientific fact.


Young men are doing so much damage to their mental health through their food choices. Often, men need some help and education around food preparation—around the basics of nutrition. For many young men, nutrition comes down to protein and gains. The number-one problem that eaters face in the modern world is ultra-processed foods: energy drinks, protein bars, breakfast cereals, shakes with protein powders, meat sticks. 

What we know from multiple studies is that the more ultra-processed foods are consumed, the more the risk of depression and anxiety go up. But a recent study treated young men and their depression using a dietary intervention. Thirty-six percent of young men achieved full remission from their depression—simply by changing their diet.

I think it’s really important for men to realize the bottom-line, take-home message: Eat more fermented foods and fiber. It’s simple, but we face a lot of misinformation from health influencers out there—jacked-up, arrogant people who represent the worst of masculinity. The amount of garbage information about masculinity and male health and mental fitness being thrown at men is off the charts. So you have got to be selective and start filtering, or your health and mental health is going to get squashed. At the same time, I think the number of men who are thoughtful about food, who are emotionally fluent, who are exploring more of a sober lifestyle—that’s at an all-time high.

The amount of garbage information about masculinity and male health and mental fitness being thrown at men is off the charts.

When I work with men, I want to be realistic. First, I get a sense of what they’re doing well and what they’re worried about. If a guy is eating out a lot and doesn’t have cooking skills, I’ll want to start hearing about the menu and how they go over it as opposed to thinking that a simple recommendation is suddenly going to make him a great home cook. If you can only eat frozen food, I have no problem with that; I can give you the brain-healthiest, most amazing, nutrient-dense, economical meal plan based on frozen foods.

A lot of the problem right now is that everyone’s just recommending the Mediterranean diet. But I grew up in rural Indiana, where the Mediterranean diet means pizza, pasta, and Greek salad. So I like to help people think in food categories. I use a little rhyme: Seafood, greens, nuts, and beans… and a little dark chocolate. Then when you’re thinking about your choices at lunch or dinner, look back over the last few days and think about those key food categories. For example, what are your favorite leafy greens? Maybe there are some you haven’t thought about, like basil in pesto, or getting a bag of pre-washed arugula and just dropping it on top of your dinner. Have you eaten some rainbow vegetables? What about seafood? What about fermented food? And you’re doing this not to shame or chastise yourself—but because that’s how you make the next best choice.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto
The frens(he) editors