The Link Between a Plant-Based Diet and Mental Health (2021)

plant based diet

In today’s world we are all looking for ways to optimize our mental health, right? Could a plant-based diet be the answer?

We look at the science to bring you the facts!

Discover what you need to get started, and learn how you can make a positive difference in the world.


Can Plant-Based Eating Positively Impact Our Mental Health?

The popularity of plant-based diets shows no signs of waning.

More and more people are choosing to cut out animal products in favour of whole, unprocessed and plant foods.

Plant-based alternatives now include everything from:

  • cheese
  • eggs
  • to chicken nuggets

Adopting a plant-based lifestyle has never been easier!

In this blog, you will learn of the benefits this lifestyle choice can have on both the body and mind.

Not only that but the benefits for the earth.

Now, fascinating research is emerging linking plant-based eating to improved mental wellbeing.

Due to the craziness that was 2020, more people than ever are looking for healthy ways to deal with issues such as anxiety, depression and stress.

And our diet?

…It’s a huge contributing factor to good mental health.

You Are What You Eat

Following the logic of “you are what you eat”, this makes a lot of sense.

Even on a superficial level…

The vibrant colours and natural freshness that abound in whole and plant foods can’t help but make us think of good vibes, sunshine and smiles, right?

The research is there to back it up.

So let’s dive in…

Time to take a closer look to see how a plant-based diet affects the mind, body and spirit.

What Is A Plant-Based Diet? 

To put it plainly, a plant-based diet means eating:

  • natural
  • unrefined
  • and unprocessed food

Including both plant foods and whole foods.

Plant foods, as you may have guessed, are foods that come from plants while whole foods comprise seeds, whole grains, nuts, beans and legumes.

What’s The Difference Between Vegan And Plant-Based?

Confused about the difference between vegan and plant-based?

It’s actually pretty simple.


Involves cutting out all animal products from your entire life.

…Not just when it comes to food but also in clothing and cosmetics while going plant-based only involves cutting them from your diet.


Has at its core a focus on whole, unprocessed and unrefined foods.

It’s important to note some vegan diets can still be high in refined sugar and processed products.

Particularly with the rise in popularity of vegan junk food.

So, How Does Eating A Plant-Based Diet Affect Your Mental Health?

The main reason why what we eat affects our mental state is because of something called the microbiome or, as it’s more commonly known, the gut.

The Microbiome AKA the Gut:

Refers to the complex ecosystem of bacteria and microorganisms that exists in our gastrointestinal tract.

It’s responsible for taking food from the mouth to the stomach.

Having a diverse selection of bacteria and microorganisms in the gut is a signifier of a healthy body.

Taking care of your gut is primordial in maintaining your body’s overall wellbeing.

Not only does it keep our digestive system working properly, but it also communicates with the brain through hormones and nerves.

The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” as it directly affects both our stress levels and our emotional wellbeing.

To put it plainly, if our gut is unhappy, so is our brain.

The brain and the microbiome communicate via a two-way system.

This means that if we feel stress in our brains, our gut will be affected and vice-versa.

This is why nutritionists often recommend trying to sleep well and reduce anxiety if you’re trying to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The Best Way To Take Care Of Your Gut Is To Eat Well

Many of the foods that make up a plant-based diet are the same ones that directly contribute to good gut health. 

Good gut health means better mental health!

Let’s take a closer look at why a plant-based diet can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.

Rich In Fibre

Whole, unprocessed and plant foods are rich in fibre, and fibre directly contributes to helping the microbiome perform at its best.

Animal-based products are much lower in fibre and can consequently cause irritation and inflammation in the gut, both of which have been linked to depression and anxiety.


It goes without saying that plant foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals but they’re also full of phytonutrients, which are only found in plants and have been linked to improvements in mental wellbeing.

Full Of Probiotics & Prebiotics

Both probiotics (live good bacteria) and probiotics, which provide food to help the latter thrive in your gut, are excellent for promoting a healthy microbiome and providing it with that much-needed fibre.

Consumption of both probiotics, in the form of fermented foods like sauerkraut, and prebiotics, in the form of fruit and vegetables like apples, onions, leeks and bananas.

Produces Serotonin

Serotonin is a key hormone in stabilising our mood and making us feel happy.

In fact, low levels of serotonin have been directly linked to depression.

Since 95% of our body’s serotonin production comes from the gut, this is one of the most important factors linking the plant-based diet to improved mental health.

Basically, eating plant food makes our gut release happy hormones that, as a result, make our brain happy! 

Low In Arachidonic Acid

Arachidonic acid is only found in animal products and has been linked to neuroinflammation, which can bring about high levels of stress and anxiety as well as worsen the symptoms of depression.

It’s Free of Refined Sugar

Eating a plant-based diet involves cutting out both refined sugar and processed products that tend to be high in sugar.

It’s no secret that sugar is incredibly addictive…

It causes spikes in our energy levels and wreaks havoc on our moods but that’s not all – it also affects our brain’s ability to process emotion, increases anxiety and decreases our memory capabilities.

How To Make The Most of Your Plant-Based Diet

Now that we’ve got to grips with the myriad ways a plant-based diet is beneficial for mental wellbeing, let’s look at some key nutrients that will help you make the most of the mood-enhancing benefits of the plant and whole foods.

Omega 3

The consumption of omega 3 fatty acids has been linked with a reduction in depression symptoms.

To make up for the lack of fish – a major source of omega 3 – in a plant-based diet, it’s important to eat lots of chia, hemp and flax seeds as well as walnuts, which are all high in these mood-boosting fatty acids.


The amino acid tryptophan is found in many animal products and is used by the brain to produce serotonin.

Plant-based sources of tryptophan include leafy greens, mushrooms, broccoli and soybeans, so it’s a good idea to incorporate lots of these into any plant-based diet!

B Vitamins

B vitamins are key players in producing feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in our brains.

Luckily, they are abundant in beans, legumes, lentils and sunflower seeds, all of which play an important role in the plant-based diet.

If you’re making the switch to a plant-based diet, it’s important to be in the know about which nutrients you need for both your physical and mental health in order to avoid any deficiencies.

For beginners, it’s always a good idea to supplement your plant-based diet with vitamins and minerals to supercharge your nutrient intake.

A big advantage of starting this new lifestyle is that it encourages you to get in tune with your body and mind to help you understand what they need to function at their best!

The Benefits Of  A Plant-Based Diet?

Since we’re on the topic, let’s mention a few other benefits of following a plant-based diet.

Decreased Risk of Diseases

Not only can it improve your mental health but this style of eating may also contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease and plenty of other chronic illnesses.

As if that wasn’t enough, a plant-based diet is also the most effective when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer.

It’s Better For The Planet

Compared to an omnivorous diet, the plant-based lifestyle impacts much less negatively on the environment and is by far the more sustainable option.

This is because livestock farming causes terrible environmental consequences such as increased greenhouse gases, water pollution and deforestation.

It’s Kinder to Animals

Another of the biggest benefits of adopting a plant-based diet is easing animal suffering.

It goes without saying that eating animal products strongly supports an industry that, generally, has very little regard for the welfare of animals.

Animals raised in livestock farms are often severely maltreated before being slaughtered.

Decreasing the global consumption of meat is the best way to ensure innocent animals are properly taken care of throughout the world.

Doing Good Makes Us Feel Good

Did you know donating is one of the Public Health Agency’s five proven ways to promote better mental health?

Doing good makes us feel good!

Knowing that our way of life does not bring about nor support the suffering of innocent animals gives us a feeling of purpose and self-worth, both of which help to decrease anxiety.

When we go a step further to actively contribute?

We experience even more of this “do good, feel good” sensation.

Acts of kindness and giving activate the reward sensors in the brain and create positive feelings as well as helping us feel more connected to the world around us.

Show Your Support With a Cult Quotes Hoodie

A surefire way to stimulate those feel-good hormones?

Buy a hoodie from Cult Quotes!

This social enterprise is one of our new ventures – set up by us Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary.

These colourful hoodies feature quotes from classic films and TV shows such as Harry Potter, Star Wars and Seinfeld.

100% of the profits from every purchase goes directly to help the 140+ rescued animals we have under our care.

Essentially, you make a donation to a fantastic cause and get a free hoodie with a quote from your favourite movie!

What’s not to love?


Help To Care For Animals in Need

Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary provides a home for rescued animals, many of which come from livestock farms.

Our vegan Sanctuary functions as a kennel too, which was our principal source of donations.

However, due to COVID, more people are staying at home with their dogs.

As a result?

Juliana’s sanctuary is lacking the essential funds we need to look after our beloved animals.

This is why we set up Cult Quotes as a fun and unique way to raise money for the sanctuary.

The CultQuotes hoodies come in almost every colour of the rainbow and are sized from S to XXL.

  • Made from air jet yarn, which is super soft
  • double-lined, meaning that for $43 you’re getting a high-quality hoodie
  • Awesome quotes and contributes to a great cause

Get yours here!

Follow Us

Get to know the animals in our care and see where your money goes.

Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter for life-affirming animal content and behind the scenes action here at Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary.

Additional Resources You May Find Useful

  1. Our Sanctuaries Amazon Wishlist
  2. Make a Donation to Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary
  3. Read Animal Stories On The Blog