Food and Mood

by | Jun 4, 2021 | Nutrition

Boost your mood with food

Food has the ability to improve your mood.  If you’re experiencing mood changes, irritability, anger etc, it’s a good idea to take a look at your health and lifestyle first.  While it might be related to a medical condition, consider what your current lifestyle is like.

Are you drinking alcohol or caffeine more than normal? Do you get enough exercise? How is your stress level?

As always, in accordance with a health coaching approach, you need a balance of nutrition AND lifestyle. Diet is undoubtedly an important aspect of your mood and mental health and that’s what we’ll look at in this post. There are quite a few healthy and delicious foods that are not only fuel for your body, but can help boost your mood as well.  Here are 10 of them:

1. Dark Leafy Greens

Greens have an amazing variety of nutrients including fibre, which balances your blood sugar, B vitamins for brain health, and also iron.

Studies show that iron deficiency is closely linked to anxiety and disrupted neurotransmitters as well.  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.

 2. Salmon

Salmon acts as a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are exceptional for helping to boost your mood. Omega-3 fatty acids act as crucial elements in the development of your nervous system and brain.
There are also high amounts of protein as well as vitamins B12 and D in omega-3 fatty foods like salmon.

You can just have a little bit of salmon on your salad with lots of veggies (and leafy greens!), or make a small serving of blackened salmon with brown rice and steamed veggies. These provide simple, healthy ways to incorporate salmon into your diet.

3. Turkey

Full of tryptophan, turkey produces a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Lower levels of tryptophan in your body can lead to less serotonin development as well as an increase in depression and anxiety. Turkey is a healthy, low-fat protein option, so it is great for most people’s diets. Go for roasted turkey for dinner, or use ground turkey in place of ground beef in different recipes.

Some other mood-boosting elements of turkey include vitamins B6 and B12, as well as zinc. Zinc deficiencies often lead to increased occurrences of depression and anxiety.

4. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds act as another rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as 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 not only help in boosting your mood, along with these other nutritious foods, but they provide overall health and wellness for your body and mind. Easy ways to incorporate more chia seeds into your diet is by adding them to your smoothie or overnight oats.

5. Eggs

Eggs were previously thought to be a slightly unhealthy option because of the higher fat content, but many studies have shown that they don’t have the effect on your cholesterol as once predicted. Of course, if your doctor advises against them, they might still be something to pass up.

However, if you like eggs, definitely add them to your diet to help boost your mood. They are high in vitamins B12 and D, as well as protein. Eggs have choline, which helps with your nervous system, mood, and makes neurotransmitters and selenium, an antioxidant. When you eat antioxidant-rich foods, it helps with your brain health and boosts your mood.

6. Lentils

Lentils supply folate, a vitamin that helps your nervous system develop. Those who are deficient in folate experience higher rates of depression. They also contain fibre, which helps with blood sugar, protein, vitamin B6, and iron. Vitamin B6 makes neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

If lentils aren’t a part of your diet yet, just start small by adding some to salads or try lentil soup.

7. Avocados

The good thing about avocados is that not only do they help boost your mood, but they are delicious!

It is true that avocados are higher in fat, but it is the healthy type of fat. They contain fibre and vitamins B6, E and C.  Another valuable vitamin you can get from avocados is B5, which helps your neurotransmitters develop.

8. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are good for gut health. In the past few years, research has shown a definite link between your brain and gut. Over 90 percent of serotonin gets produced in your digestive system! So, to get your moods back on track, you will need to prioritise your gut health.  (I love the topic of gut health, it is so interesting!!)

Clinical nutritionist Liz Lipski explains it in a way that’s really easy to understand: “It’s the life in food that gives us life”. People used to eat a lot of fermented and cultured food but now we have fridges and processed food so we no longer get enough live food.

Some fermented food options:  sauerkraut, kefir, miso, kombucha, probiotic yoghurts. All of these foods are excellent sources of probiotics – those good bacteria!

9. Chocolate

There is a reason you tend to feel better and happier after eating chocolate, and it is not just from the sugar. Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is amazing for health and wellness. It 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, try to go for the darkest chocolate you are able to enjoy (70% or higher) looking for lower amounts of sugar in the chocolate.

10. Ghee

If you don’t like butter or can’t eat it due to a dairy allergy, you’re in luck! You can try ghee instead, which is made from butter, but doesn’t have the same effect on your body. It also happens to be another great food for improving your mood.

Also known as clarified butter, ghee has a lot of nutritious fats as well as vitamin D. It also helps to heal the digestive tract, which allows your gut bacteria to develop.


So there you have lots of mood-boosting ingredient options for you to add to your shopping list!


Lindsay Guest



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Thanks to Alina Smit for the photo