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Good Mood Food: Fact or Fiction

Introduction

We all know that the foods we eat can affect the way we feel physically. Think about the feeling you have 30 minutes after finishing Thanksgiving dinner, when you realize you shouldn’t have gone back for that second helping of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Yes, that feeling! 

Have you ever considered that the foods you eat may affect the way you feel mentally and emotionally as well? Is there such a thing as a good mood food? What about a bad mood food? Is it possible that you can turn your frown upside down with nutrition alone? Let’s explore that question. 

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Can Food Affect Your Mood?

In short, yes! Food can, in fact, affect your mood both positively and negatively. To be clear, the intent here is not to suggest that one can eat a cup of berries every day and cure depression and anxiety. Let’s first define what the meaning of mood is. 

According to Merriam-Webster, mood can be defined as a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion or feeling.

Wheel that lists a variety of different moods that we experience
Wheel of Moods

Examples of different moods include:     

  • Optimistic
  • Happy
  • Gloomy
  • Energetic
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Hopeful
  • Angry
  • Tense

There are as many moods as stars in the sky! That may be an exaggeration, but you get the picture! With the global burden of mental disorders affecting 1 in 4 individuals at some point in their lives, knowing that good mood food can improve psychological wellbeing is a welcomed fact. 

What is a Good Mood Food?

While it’s not easy to pluck out one specific nutrient from a whole dietary pattern, research suggests that following a properly balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, promotes overall well-being, decreases the risk of mental disorders, may lower risk of depression, and have an overall positive effect on mood, emotion, and mental health. Let’s first look at the mood boosting effect of fruits and vegetables. 

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are classified as functional foods, because they contain nutritional components that provide health benefits beyond their basic nutrients.

The chart below lists the bioactive compounds of common functional foods, as well as the associated mood or mental health benefits, both short and long-term. 

It remains unclear exactly how fruits and vegetables can lead to a decreased risk of depression and improved mood, however the high nutritional content from nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin c, vitamin e, antioxidants, folate and other compounds plays a key role. 

Columns listing Bioactive compounds, functional foods and the mood/mental health benefits associated with each
Good Mood Food Chart

Mediterranean Diet

Omega 3, B vitamins and fiber are abundant in the Mediterranean diet and known to have mood boosting properties. The good mood foods in the Mediterranean diet include a plethora of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. This blog post Brain Healthy Foods to Boost Your Mood explores the Mediterranean diet in depth.

Evidence also exists for the use of certain strains of probiotics, a functional good mood food, in improving mood and stress response, stress prevention and anxiety reduction. Read more on probiotics for anxiety here.

Are There Bad Mood Foods?

In a word, yes. Consuming a diet high in processed, sugary and fatty foods and lower in healthy, nutrient and fiber dense foods is associated with poor mental health.

These foods are pro-inflammatory, increasing the risk of mood related disorders. Bad Mood Foods include items such as fried foods, fast foods, salty packaged snacks, soda and sugary drinks, candy, prepackaged convenience foods, white bread and pasta, cakes, cookies and junk food.  

Incorporating Good Mood Food into Your Diet

Consensus states that consumption of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily may improve mental wellness, while some studies suggest 7-8 servings daily to lead to meaningful changes in mood state. Download this sample 1-day good mood food meal plan to help learn how to incorporate good mood food into your diet daily. 

1-Day Sample Meal Plan that shows how to fit good mood foods into your diet
1-Day Good Mood Food Sample Menu

Conclusion

It’s undeniable that nutrition habits play a large role in overall mental well-being and help create a more positive psychological state. While good mood food may not always provide full relief from low mood states, there are certainly countless reasons for incorporating these foods into your daily diet. 

The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.

References

Dharmayani PNA, Juergens M, Allman-Farinelli M, Mihrshahi S. Association between Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Depression Symptoms in Young People and Adults Aged 15-45: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jan 18;18(2):780. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18020780. PMID: 33477603; PMCID: PMC7831325.

Evans HM, Howe PR, Wong RH. Effects of Resveratrol on Cognitive Performance, Mood and Cerebrovascular Function in Post-Menopausal Women; A 14-Week Randomised Placebo-Controlled Intervention Trial. Nutrients. 2017 Jan 3;9(1):27. doi: 10.3390/nu9010027. PMID: 28054939; PMCID: PMC5295071.

Głąbska D, Guzek D, Groele B, Gutkowska K. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 1;12(1):115. doi: 10.3390/nu12010115. PMID: 31906271; PMCID: PMC7019743.

Kennedy SJ, Ryan L, Clegg ME. The Effects of a Functional Food Breakfast on Gluco-Regulation, Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Satiety in Adults. Nutrients. 2020 Sep 29;12(10):2974. doi: 10.3390/nu12102974. PMID: 33003338; PMCID: PMC7600660.

Khalid S, Barfoot KL, May G, Lamport DJ, Reynolds SA, Williams CM. Effects of Acute Blueberry Flavonoids on Mood in Children and Young Adults. Nutrients. 2017 Feb 20;9(2):158. doi: 10.3390/nu9020158. PMID: 28230732; PMCID: PMC5331589.

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