Food can be one of the most powerful mood boosters!
It’s also true that foods high in sugar, salt, and fat can negatively affect our mood and lead to increased anxiety or depression.
In this section, we will explore how food can be used as a mood booster and how it can affect your state of mind. We will look at 14 foods to improve mood, increase energy and keep you feeling balanced.
This guide was written by Cat Dillon, RHN. I am not a doctor or mental health professional and cannot be held liable for the information written here.
This guide is meant to provide educational information only. For medical assistance, please seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Dark, leafy greens can be fantastic for lifting the mood. Greens have a variety of nutrients for the brain and nervous system. These include fiber, which balances your blood sugar, B vitamins for brain health, and iron.
Studies show that iron deficiency is closely linked to anxiety and disrupted neurotransmitters, which provides even more reason to eat these power-packed veggies.
Iron also helps to produce energy, which can lead to positive feelings. While it can be great for boosting your mood, you also want to be sure not to have too much iron. Talk to your doctor to discuss the right amount.
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are exceptional for helping to boost your mood. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial in developing your nervous system and brain. In geographical areas where the residents eat more fatty fish, they become less likely to get anxious or depressed, so it makes sense that it would be good for your mood!
Salmon is also high in protein and vitamins B12 and D.
You can add salmon to salads with lots of veggies (and leafy greens!), or you can serve salmon with quinoa and steamed veggies. These provide simple, healthy ways to incorporate salmon into your diet.
High in tryptophan, turkey can help you make a neurotransmitter called serotonin which is known to improve moods. Turkey also has tyrosine, an amino acid that is related to neurotransmitters.
Turkey is a healthy, low-fat protein option, which is excellent for most people’s diets. Whether on a clean, low-carb, or low-fat diet, turkey will work great. Start adding turkey to your sandwiches, have roasted turkey for dinner, or use ground turkey in place of ground beef in different recipes.
Some other mood-boosting nutrients in turkey include vitamins B6 and B12 and zinc. Zinc deficiencies often lead to increased occurrences of depression and anxiety.
Chia seeds are another rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, and protein. Chia also contains magnesium, which increases feelings of well-being.
There are so many benefits to chia seeds that they will help boost your mood along with these other nutritious foods and provide overall health and wellness for your body and mind.
The easiest way to incorporate more chia seeds into your diet is by adding them to your smoothie or protein shake
Eggs were once believed to be slightly unhealthy because of their high fat content. Still, modern studies have shown that eggs’ fat content does not raise cholesterol levels and can be a healthy addition to the diet.
Eggs are also high in vitamins B12 and D and protein. Eggs have choline, which helps with your nervous system and mood and will help you make mood-boosting neurotransmitters.
Lentils are rich in folate, a vitamin that helps your nervous system develop. Low folate is associated with higher rates of depression. Lentils also contain fiber, which helps with blood sugar, protein, vitamin B6, and iron. Vitamin B6 makes neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
What I love about avocados is that they help boost your mood and are delicious!
Avocados are indeed higher in fat, but healthy fat! They contain fiber and vitamins B6, E, and C. Another valuable vitamin you can get from avocados is B5, which helps your neurotransmitters develop.
We know from research that there is a connection between the brain and gut health. In fact, 90 percent of serotonin gets produced in your digestive system! So, to get your moods back on track, you must prioritize your gut health.
Researchers have looked at the link between mood and gut bacteria and found that by improving the gut microbiota, you can improve your overall health – including your mood!
You can improve your gut microbiota by consuming fermented food items such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and even dairy-free yogurt or kefir. These foods are excellent sources of probiotics.
You tend to feel better and happier after eating chocolate, and that’s not a placebo! Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is fantastic for health and wellness. Chocolate contains compounds such as phenylethylamine (for endorphins) and anandamide, which researchers call the “bliss” chemical. Not only is chocolate a good source of antioxidants, but it can also improve cognition and mood.
For a healthier option, opt for the darkest chocolate you can enjoy, looking for lower amounts of sugar in the chocolate.
A study conducted with young and old adult participants who ate blueberries, showed an increase of blood flow to key areas of the brain, improvements in memory and attention to required tasks. All important in decreasing the risk of developing depression.
Blueberries contain a flavonoid (anthocyanin) from their rich blue color that has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This means that blueberries can reduce inflammation, which reduces the risk of brain aging and neurodegenerative disease. Furthermore, blueberries are a nutrient-dense fruit that showcases a good amount of vitamins and minerals. They’re high in fiber, vitamin K, and manganese. They’re also rich in vitamin C that is helpful in combating the negative effect of stress.
A great source of vitamins B6, E, and magnesium, sunflower seeds are a good mood booster for those with allergies to nuts. You can easily swap sunflower seeds for any nut called for in a recipe.
Try adding sunflower seeds to your salads or just having a handful of the seeds as a snack with a piece of fruit or cheese.
Almonds are a great source of protein, vitamin E, fiber, and magnesium. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, which helps fight damage caused by free radicals. This food item also improves your cognition and memory.
They help improve your mood and overall health and are easy to incorporate into your diet. Some quick ideas are to dip apple slices in almond butter, swap almond flour for wheat flour, or use almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
Before finishing off this list, we must remember bell peppers. All colors of bell peppers are great for you; they are low in fat, low in carbohydrates, and have lots of vitamins and minerals.
Bell peppers have the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps your nervous system function and improves your cognition. Studies show that vitamin C reduces stress and helps with mood.
Sardines are an acquired taste, but they are a good option if you enjoy salty fish. Sardines come with an abundance of mood-boosting nutrients. In addition to high vitamin B12, sardines have choline, vitamin D, protein, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The benefits of a healthy diet are not just limited to your mood. There are many mental benefits to eating right as well. A healthy diet can help with weight management, increased energy levels, and improved mental health.
Cat Dillon, RHN
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