We all know that what we eat can affect the way we feel physically, but do you ever wonder if there’s a such thing as foods that can affect the way you feel mentally or emotionally? 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? Keep reading as we explore the answer to that question.
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 you can eat a cup of berries every day and cure depression and anxiety.
If you’re looking to include more good mood foods in your diet, try this anti-inflammatory salad or these gut healing smoothies. Each of these, when consumed regularly may lend to a healthier state of mind as they are not only full of flavor but also packed with nutrients.
Before going much further, let’s first define what the meaning of mood is. According to Merriam-Webster, mood is defined as a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion or feeling.
Examples of different moods include:
In fact, 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.
To provide a little more clarity, foods that are able to provide health benefits beyond the basic nutrients they contain are called functional foods. Functional foods have the ability to influence mood, which classifies them as a good mood food.
Some studies report that 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.
Let me explain as we first look at the mood boosting effect of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and Vegetables
This may seem obvious, but fruits and vegetables are the ultimate good mood food. Fruits and vegetables are packed with polyphenols, flavonoids, resveratrol, and folate.
You may like to know that while all fruits and vegetables provide health benefits, some of the fruits and vegetables below standout among their peers as nutritional powerhouses.
Fruit: Good Mood Food
- Citrus Fruits (Ex. Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons)
- Berries (Ex. Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries)
- Cherries (Ex. Tart Cherries)
Vegetable: Good Mood Food
- Green Leafy Vegetables (Ex. Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard)
- Fermented Vegetables (Ex. Kimchi, Sauerkraut)
- Sweet Potatoes
This may come as a surprise, but not all fats are bad fats. Some healthy fats actually have mood boosting properties as well. I don’t know about you, but this is welcomed news to me!
- Fatty Fish (Ex. salmon, sardines, mackerel)
- Nuts (Ex. Almonds, Walnuts, Macadamia)
- Seeds (Ex. Chia, Flax)
You may be wondering, “How in the world do I start incorporating good mood foods into my diet?”. That’s a great question, and one that I’m asked often. I generally point healthy lifestyle seeking individuals to a Mediterranean style 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.
We just discovered the health benefits of these foods earlier. If you’d like to dive deeper, 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.
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
Get ready to up the ante when it comes to fruit and vegetable intake, friends. 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.
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.
If you have a favorite good mood food, feel free to comment below. We love to hear from our readers!
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.
Angela Lago is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is passionate about researching the connection between gut health and mental wellness. Learn more about Angela’s journey from being depressed, anxious, and sleep deprived to being happy, healthy, and thriving!