The Link Between Mitochondrial Health and Mental Health

As more and more research emerges about the link between mitochondrial dysfunction and mental health, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the food we eat plays a critical role in supporting our overall well-being.

Mitochondria are the tiny powerhouses within our cells that produce energy for all of our body’s functions, including our brain function. When they become damaged or malfunction, they can’t produce energy effectively, which can lead to a range of health issues, including anxiety and depression.

The Role of Diet in Mitochondrial and HPA Axis Health

In addition to supporting our mitochondria, our diet can also impact our HPA axis, which stands for the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This is the body’s stress response system, and chronic stress too can impact mitochondrial health and contribute to anxiety and depression.

Nutrient-Dense Foods for Mitochondrial Health

So what can we do to support our mitochondrial health and improve our mental health?

One of the most important things we can do is to incorporate nutrient-dense foods into our diet, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. These foods provide the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that our mitochondria need to function properly and produce energy.

In addition to these foundational foods, there are also specific foods that can provide even more support for mitochondrial health.

For example, leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients that help to protect and repair mitochondria.

Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve mitochondrial function and reduce inflammation.

Other foods that support mitochondrial health include berries, nuts and seeds, turmeric, and green tea. 

By incorporating these foods into our diet, we can help to support our mitochondria and promote overall mental health and well-being.

To give you a taste of what a mitochondrial-supportive meal might look like, here’s a recipe for a Mediterranean-style quinoa bowl:

Mediterranean Style Anti Inflammatory Quinoa Bowl


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and place it in a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the chickpeas, onion, bell pepper, and zucchini with 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper.
  4. To assemble the bowls, divide the quinoa among four bowls. Top each bowl with roasted vegetables, olives, feta cheese, and parsley. Drizzle the dressing over the top and serve.

Each ingredient in this dish serves a purpose in supporting mitochondrial health. Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate that provides a steady source of energy and is rich in vitamins and minerals that support mitochondrial function, including iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Chickpeas, like other legumes, are an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber, which supports the growth and maintenance of healthy gut bacteria, which are also important for overall health.

Red onions and bell peppers are packed with antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress, which can damage mitochondria.

Zucchini is a great source of vitamin C and potassium, two important nutrients for mitochondrial function.

Kalamata olives provide healthy monounsaturated fats and contain antioxidant compounds that have been shown to protect mitochondria from damage.

Feta cheese, made from sheep or goat milk, is a good source of healthy fats and protein.

Finally, parsley is rich in flavonoids and other compounds that have been shown to protect against mitochondrial damage.

In addition to this recipe, there are many other ways to incorporate nutrient-dense, mitochondrial-supportive foods into your diet.

For example, you can add berries and nuts to your breakfast, enjoy fatty fish like salmon for lunch, snack on veggies and hummus in the afternoon, and enjoy a turmeric-spiced dinner with leafy greens and healthy fats.

By making these simple changes, you can support your mitochondrial health and promote overall mental and physical well-being.

Remember, food is medicine, and what you eat can have a profound impact on your health.

By prioritizing nutrient-dense, mitochondrial-supportive foods, you can support your body’s natural ability to produce energy, reduce inflammation, and promote optimal mental health.

Give it a try and see how much better you can feel!

Ready to support your mitochondrial health and improve your mental well-being? Book a free 30-minute discovery call with Joseph at Re-Root Functional Nutrition Coaching and start your journey to a healthier, happier you.

Click to get the ball rolling.

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