Diet and Mood

Eliza Martinez
Woman with Fork

If you've felt down and depressed after a meal or you've ever experienced a mood boost after eating, you know that what you put into your mouth plays a role in how you feel afterward. Keep in mind that healthy foods are generally your best bet for many reasons, including keeping your emotions under control.

Foods for Energy

Do you need more energy to help get you through the day? The following foods may be the answer.


Carbohydrates are your body's main source of fuel, so skimping on them can negatively impact your mood and leave you feeling lethargic. Carbs offer your body glucose, which is converted to energy for basic body functions and energy to get through the day. It's important to spread your carb intake out through the day to keep your energy levels on an even keel.

All that being said, there are different kinds of carbohydrates. It's vital to pick complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates because the former version contains more nutrients that satisfy hunger and keep energy and mood steady, according to the Mayo Clinic. Simple carbs often give you quick burst of energy, but they digest quickly, leaving you feeling tired and cranky not long after. The following options are great choices of good carbohydrates.

  • Whole grains, such as whole wheat, barley, oats, spelt and brown rice
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Beans and lentils
  • Potatoes and root vegetables

The Harvard School of Public Health encourages you to choose whole grain cereals for breakfast and to switch your white bread for a 100 percent whole wheat version. Mix up your grain intake by switching rice for quinoa or couscous at mealtime. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and opt for whole versions instead of juice whenever possible. These easy changes to your lifestyle help regulate your serotonin production, thereby helping keep your mood on an even keel throughout the day.


Fiber plays a role in energy by sustaining even blood sugar levels over the course of a day, note the experts at Today Food. In addition, fiber also controls your appetite, helping prevent the risk of reaching for unhealthy foods between meals that could leave you sluggish. Check out this list of ideal sources of fiber and you'll be well on your way to a great day.

  • Whole grains
  • Apples
  • Raspberries
  • Pears
  • Flaxseed
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit


When you're dehydrated, you feel lethargic and tired. Throughout the day it's vital to sip water to keep your body revved and ready to go. Carry a bottle to work, the gym and school. Keep a glass of water on hand at home too. If you don't like the flavor of plain water, add lemon juice, a cucumber slice or a strawberry to give it a fresh taste.

Foods for Happiness and Contentment

Healthy Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in your mood, and in fact, a low level has been linked to depression and impulsivity. This doesn't give you license to load up on fatty foods, however. Omega-3s are found in specific foods, which have a place in a healthy and mood-boosting diet.

Your brain is about 60 percent fat. This means it needs an adequate amount of good fats to function properly, which is why you might feel angry or hostile if your omega-3 levels dip. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are also beneficial. They play a role in mood control by enhancing your overall health, according to Help Guide.

At the same time, a diet high in unhealthy fats, including saturated and trans fat, is linked to increased feelings of anger, depression, fatigue and anxiety, reports ABC News. These fats aren't good for your body, so it follows that eating a lot of them interferes with healthy bodily functions, including those that regulate your mood and keep you feeling energized, content and happy on a day to day basis. Go over the following list of good versus bad fats so you are able to make the best choices for your mood.

Good Fats

  • Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies or sardines
  • Olive, canola, peanut and sunflower oil
  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu

Bad Fats

  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Poultry with the skin left on
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Lard
  • Fried foods
  • Candy
  • Fast food
  • Packaged snacks and desserts

You don't have to give up your favorite foods, but it is important to eat them in moderation, or you might find yourself feeling stressed, upset and depressed more than usual. Balance your intake of unhealthy fats with healthy ones to keep your happy mood consistent.

More Carbs

Carbs also play a role in happiness. Many people avoid carbs as a way to lose weight, but if your intake dips too low it interferes with your body's production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that you need to feel happy.

A lack of carbs can leave you feeling angry and depressed, so make sure you get enough each day. For the average person, this translates to 45 to 65 percent of daily calorie intake. In addition to the items featured in the list of carbohydrates above, the experts at Today Food also recommend carbs that contain tryptophan, which is a chemical precursor to serotonin. Try the following options.

  • Milk
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Smoothies

Folic Acid

According to the National Institutes of Health, folic acid plays a role in mood, so it's important to be sure you're getting enough of this nutrient each day. A deficiency in folic acid has been linked to higher rates of depression, especially in the elderly population. Great sources of folic acid include the following.

  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Rice
  • Avocado
  • Peanuts
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Kidney beans

Foods for Stress Relief

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, and it isn't always a bad thing. Feeling stressed can spur you to get things done on time and many people work best under a bit of pressure. However, when it gets to be too much, there are dietary choices you can make to battle your emotions and help you relax and calm down. Take a look at these stress-relieving foods and consider keeping them on hand at work and home for when your anxiety peaks.

Crunchy Foods

When you're stressed out, chomping on something hard and crunchy gives you an outlet for burning off the anxious feelings and helping you gain control. The trick is to choose healthy foods, which also help keep your mood stabilized.

  • Popcorn
  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Radishes

B Vitamins

B vitamins play many roles in your body, but when they're combined with tryptophan, they help you control feelings of stress and anxiety. The following foods contain a good ratio of the two and are great options for when you expect a stressful day.

  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Milk and other dairy foods

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When you're stressed, inflammation in your body can sometimes occur, leading to headaches and other health issues, which are exacerbated by a poor diet, reports the Journal, "Psychosomatic Medicine." To keep stress at bay, include these anti-inflammatory foods in your regular meal plan. At the same time, avoid making unhealthy food choices whenever possible.

  • Pomegranates
  • Grape juice
  • Green beans
  • Apples
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits
  • Kale
  • Prunes

Foods that contain magnesium are also ideal for reducing the inflammation that can cause a headache when you're anxious. Nuts, beans and spinach are perfect options.

Eating Habits

Not only does what you eat affect how you feel, but how you eat also factors in. According to registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of The Small Change Diet in a report by U.S. News and World Report, forgoing a regular meal plan can make you tired and irritable. Food gives your body fuel, so you must eat on a regular basis to keep your energy levels going.


Start your day with a healthy breakfast, have lunch midday and eat dinner after work. Sprinkle in a snack or two between to keep yourself from dragging between meals. Eating like this regulates your mood by ensuring that your body is refueled consistently.

In addition, skipping meals or spacing them out with too many hours between increases your body's production of stress hormones, note the experts at Fitness magazine. When this happens, you're likely to feel irritable and upset more easily than usual.

Make Eating Simple

All this information might seem a bit overwhelming. To make it easier on yourself, the Mayo Clinic recommends eating a healthy diet day to day, which ensures that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to regulate your mood. Try to fill your plate with a healthy variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy foods, and you'll be well on your way to a better mood every day.

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Diet and Mood