When it comes to your mood, there's so much influence upon it: your physical health, environmental factors, relationships, self awareness, stress... among others. And more often than you would think, your mood is affected by a lack of something in your body, such as certain vitamins or enough energy; or other times by eating or drinking too much of something. The good news is, you can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help boost your mood. In this article, you will learn about food and drink choices that will help to kick-start your positivity routine.
We all experience mood disorders. We feel them in both psychological and physical ways. With more or less frequency, you may experience fear, tension, excessive worry about everyday events and problems, irritability, difficulty concentrating, issues with personal and work relationships; or more acutely you could feel heart palpitations, elevated heart rate, muscle tension or chest tightness.
Research suggests that proper nutrition can help improve your mood and also boost your overall health. While, there's no specific diet that's been proven to relieve symptoms immediately, or put you instantly in a better mood, a healthy diet may help as part of an overall improvement of your mood.
In this article, we will learn about the food and drinks responsible for bettering our moods both in the short and the long term, and we will also talk about those that negatively impact our health. Finally, we provide you with a few tips to make this mood boosting routine a reality. Keep reading for some good mood tips :)
What foods can positively affect your mood state?
There are different nutrients in your foods that can help boost your mood in the short term: calming, awakening; or in the long-term: preventing cell damage to maintain your brain health. Let's discover the effects of different foods in your mood.
Boosting Alertness: Protein-Rich Foods
Foods rich in protein contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which may help you make serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is extremely important for regulating mood, sleep, appetite as well as having a role in learning and memory. Low serotonin levels are associated with feelings of depression, anxiety, and irregularities in sleep and appetite.
Where to find tryptophan?
Tryptophan can be found in beans, peas, soy products, or animal products (yogurt, fish..). It can also be found in a number of fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds as well. If eating animal products is not an option, supplementation with nutritional products works well. It is important to eat a carbohydrate (such as a piece of fruit, rice, potatoes or any natural sugary/starchy food) in conjunction with a tryptophan rich meal because this will increase the absorption of tryptophan, and thus increase serotonin levels.
If you need to clear your mind and boost your energy, reach out for a protein rich food.
- Soy products
- Dark Chocolate (contains tryptophan and phenylethylamine)
- Chia seeds
Preventing Depression: Vitamin B
Vitamin B contains nutrients vital for brain health. For example, thiamin (vitamin B1) is involved in turning glucose into energy, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (involved in learning and memory), vitamin B6 helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, and vitamin B12 is involved in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, among others, all of which help to regulate mood.
A Spanish study found that rates of depression tended to rise in men -- especially smokers -- as they got less folate. The same thing happened for women -- especially those who smoked or didn't exercise -- but when they got less vitamin B12. This wasn't the first study to find a link between these vitamins and depression. Researchers aren't sure which way the influence goes: do poor nutrient levels lead to depression, or does depression lead people to eat poorly?
In either case, you can get both of these B vitamins from foods in a Mediterranean diet. Legumes, nuts, many fruits, and dark green vegetables have folate. Vitamin B12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.
Vitamin B Foods
- Citrus fruits
- Brown rice
- Sunflower seeds
- Kai Lan
- Dark, leafy vegetables
Calming effects: Wholesome Carbs
Wholesome carbohydrates are linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. They provide energy, help make you feel full and satisfied, control your blood glucose and insulin metabolism, promote proper elimination, and foster fermentation in your gut, which promotes normal digestion and the growth of friendly bacteria. But not all carbohydrates are created equal.
In general, people often use the term, "smart" or "complex" carbs to describe wholesome carbs, versus "simple" to describe refined carbs. The differences among these two include: the amount and type of fibre - whole carbs often contain higher amounts of fibre; the amount of processing - complex carbs go through minimal processing; and the glycemic index and load - smart carbs have a lower glycemic index, and are more slowly digested and absorbed by our bodies. Whole grains are also important sources of B vitamins, which as describes previously, are essential for brain health.
For all the described above, choose your carbs wisely. Limit sugary foods and opt for smart or “complex” carbs (such as whole grains) rather than simple carbs (such as cakes and cookies). Fruits, vegetables, and legumes also have healthy carbs and fibre.
Wholesome Carbs Foods
- Steel-cut oatmeal
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
Note: Whole grain foods can be confusing. A rule of thumb when reading food labels is that for every 5 grams of carbohydrate, a product should have at least one gram of dietary fibre to be considered whole grain.
Improving depression: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish oil and certain marine algae. Because depression appears less common in nations where people eat large amounts of fish, scientists have investigated whether fish oils may prevent and/or treat depression and other mood disorders.
Growing evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids (abundant in oily fish such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel) may have a role in brain functioning, with deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids linked to mental health problems.
In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, for instance, researchers analysed 26 previously published studies (involving 150,278 participants) that examined the association between fish consumption and the risk of depression. In their analysis of results, the study authors found that people who consumed the most fish were less likely to have depression symptoms. While this association doesn't prove causality, it suggests that rigorous clinical trials are needed to explore the role of omega-3 fatty acids in depression and mental health.
As their biological mechanism, fatty acids could help improving depression due to how they easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain. They also have anti-inflammatory actions that may help relieve depression.
For good sources of omega-3s, including alpha-linolenic acid, think of: fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad, and tuna), flaxseed, canola and soybean oils, nuts, especially walnuts and dark green, leafy vegetables.
- Wild salmon
- Other oily fish
- Flax and chia seeds
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Canola oil, flaxseed oil
Regulating Mood: Folate (Vitamin B9)
A B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and beans may be useful in the treatment of depression and other psychiatric symptoms. Folate or folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is already known to be important for health.
Although the connection isn't fully understood, low folate levels have been consistently associated with depression in research. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2017, for instance, analysed previous studies and found that people with depression had lower blood levels of folate and lower dietary intake of folate compared to those without depression.
Folate deficiency may impair the metabolism of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline (neurotransmitters important for mood), but further research is needed to understand the role of folate in depression and mental health.
Several studies have found that greater vegetable and fruit consumption is associated with a decreased risk of depression. One study published in 2017 found that a beverage made from wild blueberries increased positive mood in children and young adults.
- Turnip greens
- Folate is also plentiful in beans and lentils, with a cup of cooked lentils providing 90 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Easing gut work "Making you feel a little more up": Probiotics
Probiotics are best known for their role in digestive health, but emerging research suggests that bacteria in the gut sends and receives signals to the brain (John Hopkins Medicine). While promising, experts note the need of more testing in a wider variation of probiotic strain, dose, and treatment duration, to confirm the efficacy of probiotics in mood treatment.
Probiotics and gut health are intimately linked to immune function, which is your body’s ability to fight infection or disease. So while not being able to link completely probiotics to your mood, incorporating probiotics regularly is a great bet for continued well-being.
Foods to Eat
- Korean kimchi
- Pickled vegetables
Note: Talk to your doctor before increasing your consumption of probiotics if immunocompromised to contract an infection—fungemia or bacteremia—from probiotic supplements.
Preventing Cell Damage: Antioxidants
Our bodies normally make molecules called free radicals, but these can lead to cell damage, ageing, and other health problems.
Studies show that your brain is particularly at risk. Although there's no way to stop free radicals completely, you can be able to lessen their destructive effect by eating foods rich in antioxidants.
Foods with Antioxidants
- Sweet potato
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable oils
- Wheat germ
Improving Depression: Vitamin D
Known as the sun vitamin, this nutrient is made naturally in the body when skin is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. In the past few years, research has suggested that vitamin D may increase the levels of serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters influencing our mood, and that deficiency may be linked with mood disorders, particularly seasonal affective disorder.
Vitamin D receptors are located throughout the body, including your brain.
A recent national study found that the likelihood of having depression is higher in people with low levels of vitamin D. In another study, researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who had symptoms of depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to get better when the amount of vitamin D in their bodies went up as you'd expect it to during the spring and summer.
Researchers don't know how much vitamin D is ideal, although too much can cause problems with calcium levels and how well your kidneys work.
Vitamin D Foods
When not possible to enjoy enough sunshine, you can trying enriching your diet with the following foods:
- Canned salmon with bones is rich in vitamin D and is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Look for wild pink salmon or sockeye salmon with bones.
- Egg yolks
- Foods that may be fortified with vitamin D (soy milk, and orange juice)
Improving Mood: Selenium-Rich Foods
Studies have reported a link between low selenium and poor moods. The recommended amount for selenium is 55 micrograms a day for adults.
In a study, for example, the possibility that a subclinical deficiency of the trace element selenium might exist in a sample of the British population was examined by giving a selenium supplement for 5 weeks. Using a double-blind cross-over design, 50 subjects received either a placebo or 100 mcg selenium on a daily basis. On three occasions they filled in the Profile of Moods States. A food frequency questionnaire was used to estimate the intake of selenium in the diet. Intake was associated with a general elevation of mood and in particular, a decrease in anxiety. The change in mood when taking the active tablet was correlated with the level of selenium in the diet, which was estimated from a food frequency questionnaire. The lower the level of selenium in the diet the more reports of anxiety, depression, and tiredness, decreased following 5 weeks of selenium therapy.
Selenium Rich Foods
Evidence isn't clear that taking supplements can help. And it's possible to get too much selenium. So it's probably best to focus on foods:
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts - but no more than one or two a day because of their high selenium content)
- Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
- Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
Energy Enhancing / Anxiety Reducing: Foods containing Magnesium
One of the most abundant minerals in the body, magnesium plays an important role in a number of bodily functions and has a number of health benefits.
In addition to these benefits, magnesium may be helpful as a natural treatment for anxiety. While further studies are needed, there is research to suggest magnesium may help fight anxiety.
Studies throughout the years have found that magnesium could be a treatment for anxiety. These studies looked at mild anxiety, anxiety during premenstrual syndrome, postpartum anxiety, and generalised anxiety.
One of the reasons why magnesium might help reduce anxiety is that it may improve brain function. Research shows that magnesium plays an important role in regulating neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout the brain and body. This is how magnesium plays a role in neurological health and may help with brain functions that reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, magnesium is believed to affect a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which helps regulate the pituitary and adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for your response to stress
Foods rich in Magnesium
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, brazil nuts
- Beans: Chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peas
- Seeds: Flax, pumkin and chia seeds
- Some fatty fish: Salmon
- Whole grains: Quinoa, buckwheat, oats, barley.
What foods can negatively affect your mood?
We’ve known for some time that there’s an association between added sugars and unhealthy fats with an increased risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and many other ailments. But now we’re learning that they’re also bad for your mental and even your emotional health.
What we eat, especially foods that contain chemical additives and ultra-processed foods, affects our gut environment and increases our risk of diseases. Ultra-processed foods contain substances extracted from food (such as sugar and starch), added from food constituents (hydrogenated fats), or made in a laboratory (flavour enhancers, food colourings). It’s important to know that ultra-processed foods such as fast foods are manufactured to be extra tasty by the use of such ingredients or additives, and are cost effective to the consumer. These foods are very common in the typical Western diet. Some examples of processed foods are canned foods, sugar-coated dried fruits, and salted meat products. Some examples of ultra-processed foods are soda, sugary or savoury packaged snack foods, packaged breads, buns and pastries, fish or chicken nuggets, and instant noodle soups.
Researchers recommend “fixing the food first” (in other words, what we eat) before trying gut modifying-therapies (probiotics, prebiotics) to improve how we feel. They suggest eating whole foods and avoiding processed and ultra-processed foods that we know cause inflammation and disease.
Unhealthy Fat Foods
A 2012 study published in the Public Health Journal looked at fast food consumption and depression. Compared to those who ate little to no fast food products, people who ate fast food at least twice a week were 51% more likely to develop depression.
Saturated fat is found mainly in palm oil, widely used in the processed food industry, as well as in products of animal origin.
Refined Carbs and Added Sugar Foods
While it can bring short-term pleasure, in the long run, sugar seems to be especially bad for your mood. Studies have shown that it increases the risk of mood disorders and depression. The Whitehall Study II looked at the diets and health conditions of 8,000 people over 22 years. Researchers found that men who ate 67 or more grams of sugar per day were 23% more likely to have a depression diagnosis in a five-year period than men who consumed 40 grams or less.
Sugar sneaks its way into many of the things we eat. Beverages are one of the most under recognised sources of added sugars in the modern diet. And now we’re learning that they can have a major impact on mental health. Often it’s even found in surprising places like pasta sauce and low-fat salad dressing!
A 2014 Japanese study reviewed dietary patterns and self-reported depression levels of more than 260,000 participants. Researchers found a dramatic increase in rates of depression amongst participants who drank the most sweetened beverages. Diet soda drinkers, however, had even worse outcomes than regular soda drinkers. Meanwhile, coffee and tea drinkers fared the best — particularly when they drank their coffee or tea unsweetened.
What drinks are great mood boosters?
By following the same logic of mood boosting foods, drinks with the nutrients above can be great for providing us an overall good sense of wellbeing and good feels.
Try mixing up the above ingredients in different juices, smoothies or warm drinks.
Adding produce like celery, kale, and spinach will give you the calcium and magnesium to reduce blood pressure, plus a ton of vitamin C—one cup of kale packs more than 100 percent of your daily value—which helps control your body’s response to stress. We provide you with a few ideas for inspiration that you can use according to your preference:
1. Juice / Smoothie or Warm Drink with red fruits, for example beets, or berries.
You could try mixing a banana berry smoothie, a cold refreshing beverage is a great substitute for breakfast when you're in a hurry. You can try adding some chia seeds for an extra dose of protein.
Love beets? Try a pink latte. Beetroot has tyrosine and the amino acid betaine, which can increase your dopamine levels, in turn improving your mood. This hot vegan latte is subtly sweet and rich in brain-healthy nutrients.
2. Refreshing drink with green leafy vegetables
A blended drink of fresh fruits and dark leafy greens can give you energy, a fast healthy meal and transform your body from the inside out.
You can add spinach, kale, broccoli, mixed with a range of mood boosting fruits as bananas, berries, cantaloupe.
3. More ideas
Additionally you can follow these tips below by Prevention.com to refresh your mood. Whether you're looking to clear your mind, soothe your anxiety or focus on a big project, you can turn to one of these 6 delicious drinks for help
- Warm water with lemon: Water re-hydrates your brain to keep you quenched and focused, and the scent of lemon has been clinically proven to boost your concentration level. Not to mention that warm water and lemon are a great detox duo for cleansing out your system and ridding you of impurities. So drink up and get down to business!
- Green tea: Green tea can stimulate your brain waves just as well as meditation. This makes you alert enough to get through your day without giving you a crazy dose of caffeine. Green tea is rich in amino acids, antioxidants and metabolism-igniting properties. It can keep you awake and help you lose weight at the same time.
- Chamomile Latte: This delicious tea has been known for centuries to reduce anxiety, irritability and stress. Milk from grass-fed cows contains a property called conjugated linoleum acid which counteracts the overproduction of cortisol (the stress hormone) within your system. These two powerful anxiety-busters combined make a wonderfully soothing drink.
- Greek yogurt, skyr or kefir: The protein found in Greek yogurt can actually amp up your neurotransmitters to balance out the blues. The probiotics that make up Greek yogurt and kefir are incredible for mood improvements as well. In fact, research suggests that probiotics may be a treatment for depression. So blend up a smoothie with one of these amazing ingredients.
- Cherry Juice: Tart cherry juice has been proven in studies to increase the length of sleep in patients by 90 minutes. That's over an hour of extra snoozing! This is because cherry juice contains high levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and amino acids which balance your sleep-wake cycle. Try drinking two glasses of this amazing drink each day for best results.
- Cinnamon chai: Chai tea is so yummy as it comes in a variety of comforting spices. Cinnamon chai is the best choice for alleviating frustration. It has been clinically proven that the aroma of cinnamon decreases irritability, while chai stabilises blood sugar levels to induce a calmer, more relaxed state.
How to create a mood boosting eating habits and not falling in the traps of mood lowering foods
If you’re tired or worn out from a busy day, you may not feel like whipping up mood boosting foods from scratch, or even have the energy to do so. Here are some suggestions to help you make your mood-boosting foods a reality.
- Take advantage of the good times and meal prep.
Preparing your food for the week can actually go a long way toward avoiding last minute unhealthy decisions such as running through a fast food drive-thru on your way home. When you’re feeling able, batch cook a few items that you can leave in the freezer for future times. One pot meals like soup or chili are great options, as you can make them in big batches and portion them in the freezer. You could also bake a batch of healthy muffins, prep some smoothie kits, or make other recipes you enjoy eating.
- Make it simple.
You don’t need to spend hours cooking mood boosting foods to reap the benefits. Blend up a smoothie, have some avocado toast or cook a veggie omelette if that’s what appeals to you.
- Practice mindful eating.
When tempted to eat to fill an emotional need, try practicing mindful eating. This basically means slowing down, eliminating distractions and savouring the experience of eating good food. It sounds pretty simple, but research shows it can prevent binge and emotional eating.
- Understand balance.
Honestly, giving yourself a little margin when it comes to food is totally OK. Make every effort to be intentional about the food you eat, but there is no need to be legalistic. Don’t allow yourself to feel overwhelmed or pressured. You will be more successful if you approach food with a healthy outlook as the means to fuel your life, not as a list of rules to follow and check off.
Small dietary changes can make a big difference in how you feel over time. While the research on food and mood is in the early stages, many of these foods can keep you healthy for other reasons. Eating a diet high wholesome foods as vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can be helpful not only boost your mood but also your overall health.
It may be tempting to use food to treat anxiety or depression, but more research is needed from large-scale clinical trials. If you have depression or any condition, it's important to seek help from your health care provider.