9 Foods that Affect Mood | How Food affects Mood

9 Foods that Affect Mood | How Food Impacts Mental Health

We all know that what we eat has a significant effect on our physical health, but did you know that food also profoundly impacts our mental well-being? Turns out that gut feeling you had about food affecting your mood was right!

the best foods to eat to improve your mood

What is nutritional psychiatry? The actual study of how food affects your mood!

The growing understanding of this intricate connection has given rise to a fascinating field known as nutritional psychiatry—a discipline that investigates the immense impact of food on both our mood and emotional health. It has become increasingly evident that our diet goes far beyond satisfying hunger; it directly influences our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Mood-boosting foods not only contain essential nutrients that support brain health and help regulate neurotransmitters that keep us happy, but also influence the gut-brain axis—a communication pathway that links our digestive system to the brain.

This intricate network relies on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in our moods and emotions. Additionally, blood sugar regulation plays a crucial role when it comes to our emotional state. 

Is being hangry a real thing? Scientifically speaking, yes!

Ever heard of someone being “hangry”? Turns out, that’s a very real thing! Fluctuations in blood glucose levels or low blood glucose levels can lead to mood swings, irritability, and fatigue. Therefore, knowing what to eat is just as important as knowing when and how to eat. Understanding the science behind nutrition and how foods interact with our body and mind is essential for harnessing the power of food to improve our mental state.

9 Foods proven to help boost & improve mood & mindset

From serotonin-boosting dark chocolate to omega-3-rich salmon, let's uncover nine foods that can help you feel your best. Small changes in your diet can lead to significant improvements in your mood!

fermented foods improve your mood

1) Fermented Foods - Probiotic Powerhouses

Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, and tempeh can improve gut health and, consequently, our mood. Fermentation allows beneficial bacteria to thrive, creating probiotics that feed the good bacteria in our gut, helping to combat bad bacteria. These probiotics may also increase serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter crucial for mood, sleep, stress response, appetite, sexual drive, and digestion. In fact, 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut by our microbiome.

Emerging research shows that a healthy gut microbiome can lead to lower rates of depression, anxiety, and healthier brains. It's crucial to have the right kind of bacteria thriving in our gut, and probiotics from fermented foods help maintain that balance, leading to improved gut health and reduced inflammation, which can positively impact our mood.

matcha and other tea improves your mood

2) Tea - The Soothing Brew

Tea has long been revered for its calming effects and mood-enhancing properties. Varieties like black, green, white, and herbal teas are rich in bioactive compounds such as polyphenols and flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and have a positive impact on mental health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.

Matcha, in particular, is well-known for containing l-theanine, a calming amino acid that promotes relaxation, tranquility, and alertness. This effect can be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety. Matcha's high concentration of antioxidants, nutrients, and anti-inflammatory properties, including EGCG, also contributes to its potential mood-improving benefits.


eating dark chocolate is proven to boost serotonin and give you a happy boost

3) Dark Chocolate - The Serotonin Booster

Dark chocolate (the darker, the better) offers mood-boosting benefits through its cocoa content. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids and an amino acid called phenylethylamine (PEA), along with other active compounds that stimulate the brain's production of neurotransmitters, leading to feelings of happiness. 

Anandamide, another active compound in cacao, may help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, targeting the same brain structures as THC and linked to improved mood. Theobromine, a mild stimulant found in dark chocolate, also contributes to its mood-boosting properties.

When choosing chocolate for health benefits, opt for varieties with at least 70% cocoa content.

Fatty Fish - Omega-3 for Emotional Resilience

4) Fatty Fish - Omega-3 for Emotional Resilience

Omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA, EPA, and DHA, are essential for brain health and cannot be produced by the body, necessitating their intake through diet. Fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, and anchovies are excellent sources of EPA and DHA, which play a vital role in brain development, cell signaling, and have been shown to reduce depression. 

Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce inflammation and boost the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Regular consumption of fatty fish has been linked to better cardiovascular and cognitive functioning.

Fish's ability to regulate blood sugar levels by providing satiety can also contribute to stable moods and reduced sugar cravings.

berries (strawberries, blueberries & more) can all boost mood naturally

5) Berries - Nature's Mood-Boosters

Berries are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants and other essential nutrients that support mental health. Research has linked increased fruit and vegetable consumption, including a variety of colors in the diet, to lower rates of depression. Berries, particularly blueberries and blackberries, contain anthocyanin, an antioxidant thought to help manage inflammation and oxidative stress, which are often associated with mood disorders. One study showed that people who consumed a diet rich in anthocyanin had a 39% lower risk of depression.

Berries are also a great source of fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Fermentation of fiber by gut microbiota produces short-chain fatty acids that reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and positively impact mood.

Vitamin C, found abundantly in berries, is vital for overall health and mental well-being. Studies have shown that supplemental vitamin C can lower anxiety levels, making berries an excellent addition to a mood-boosting diet.

Whole Grains are proven to be Glucose Regulators and boost mood

6) Whole Grains - Glucose Regulators

Whole grains like quinoa, barley, brown rice, and farro are rich in fiber, protein, and nutrients that promote well-being. Slow-digesting carbohydrates in whole grains help maintain stable blood sugar levels, supporting emotional stability and preventing mood swings and irritability.

The protein in whole grains contains essential amino acids, including tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin—the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and relaxation. 

Additionally, whole grains provide essential B-vitamins crucial for brain health and neurotransmitter production, playing a vital role in mood regulation. Low levels of certain B-vitamins have been linked to depression and other mood disorders.

Legumes - The Fiber-Rich Mood Stabilizer

7) Legumes - The Fiber-Rich Mood Stabilizer 

Legumes, including chickpeas, lentils, black beans, green peas, and kidney beans, offer a wealth of fiber, protein, and nutrients that stabilize mood and enhance well-being. As complex carbohydrates, legumes release energy gradually, promoting stable blood sugar levels and preventing mood swings.

Folate, found abundantly in legumes, is essential for serotonin production, further contributing to their mood-stabilizing effects. Legumes are also excellent sources of all B-vitamins, important for energy production, nerve signaling, and neurotransmitter synthesis. Low levels of certain B-vitamins have been associated with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.

Moreover, legumes provide essential nutrients like zinc, magnesium, selenium, and iron, all of which play critical roles in mood regulation and overall well-being. They’ve also been studied to be especially effective at improving mood during menopause.

Eggs - The Sunny Side-Up Mood Lifters

8) Eggs - The Sunny Side-Up Mood Lifters

Eggs, a fantastic protein-packed breakfast option, act as natural mood boosters. Egg yolks, in particular, are rich in choline, a nutrient essential for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine. Acetylcholine supports memory, cognitive function, and mood, and choline deficiency has been associated with anxiety and mood disorders. Some studies have explored choline's potential as a treatment for bipolar disorder and mania symptoms, though further research is needed in this area.

Eggs also contain B-vitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants—nutrients all associated with mood regulation. As a complete protein source, eggs provide all essential amino acids, serving as building blocks for neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which impact mood and alertness.

Nuts and Seeds - The Tiny Mood Warriors

9) Nuts and Seeds - The Tiny Mood Warriors

Nuts and seeds may be small, but they are packed with essential nutrients that support mental health. Rich in healthy fats, especially monounsaturated fats, they play an important role in brain health, hormone regulation, and cognitive functioning. A healthy brain is better equipped to handle stress and maintain emotional stability.

Nuts and seeds also provide magnesium, a mineral critical for mood regulation. Some studies have found that magnesium levels are lower in individuals with depression, and magnesium intake can help with sleep, stress management, and muscle relaxation.

The bottom line | nutritional psychiatry is a real thing 

Nutritional psychiatry is a captivating field that highlights the crucial role of food in our mood and emotional well-being. The gut-brain axis, neurotransmitters, and blood sugar regulation all emphasize the importance of a balanced diet. 

By embracing the power of food to nurture both body and mind, we can build greater emotional resilience and live a more fulfilling life.


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