Can what you eat affect your mood?  

Food is powerful with a capital P, and different components in food can affect how you feel after you have eaten them. Now more than ever, we are discovering that nutrition is the foundation of a healthy body and mind.  

An exciting, emerging field called “nutritional psychiatry” emphasizes how diet and nutrition may affect the way people feel mentally. Accumulating data suggests that food is not only critical for our basic nutritional needs but may also have significant effects on mood and mental wellbeing.  Think about how certain foods impact how you feel. Are you sluggish and temperamental after over-indulging? Are you energized after eating a plant-forward meal with lean protein?   

Let’s explore why this may be the case.  Our gastrointestinal system (aka “the gut”) is connected to the brain.  Our gut is home to trillions of living microbes that serve many functions. One of those functions includes producing neurotransmitters that send chemical messages to the brain to regulate appetite, mood, and emotion.  So, when we eat foods that nourish our gut, a message is sent to our brain producing that “feel-good” feeling.  Other research suggests that when we consume high levels of ultra-processed foods with added sugar, sodium, and saturated fats, there’s an increased risk of depressive symptoms.  We still have more to learn, but it’s another reason to include more nutrient-dense foods in our meals and snacks!  

Need some inspiration to improve your mood?  Check out these tips to help get you feeling refreshed and energized!   


Eat balanced meals

Include plenty of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and herbs/spices.  These foods are incredible sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that will keep our immune system in tip-top shape and feeling great! Focus on plant proteins such as beans, nuts, and seeds and lean proteins such as poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs to provide adequate fuel for the day.  

Incorporate healthy fats

Omega-3s have been researched for their positive effect on mood and anxiety.  These healthy fats may help decrease inflammation in the body.  Flaxseeds, canola oil, olive oil, chia seeds, salmon, and tuna are excellent sources of healthy omega-3’s! 

 Choose fluids wisely 

Aim for at least 64 ounces of filtered water to stay well-hydrated and prevent fatigue. Stick with water and unsweetened beverages, like green tea.,  


Pack healthy snacks

Pack healthy snacks with protein and fiber such as nuts, vegetables, or fresh fruit for a pick-me-up during the day. These foods help keep blood sugar stable and will provide a natural energy and mood boost! 


Engage in regular physical activity

Any type of movement helps with releasing feel-good brain chemicals and may take your mind off negative thoughts that can contribute to poor mood. Even 10 minutes of exercise counts, and there is always something you can do to stay physically active- whether it’s doing household chores, swimming, yoga, Pilates, taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or even gardening! 


Michele DiCristofaro MD, RD, LDN