woman eating healthy food to improve her mood

Can Food Boost Your Mood?

Many people know that unbalanced diets can lead to physical problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. However, fewer people understand how food affects your mood. Not only could an unhealthy diet cause long-term physical health problems, but it can affect your mood in the moment and beyond.

Like the rest of the body, the brain needs fuel to function. While you can power your brain on junk food, it is not the optimal fuel. As such, your brain chemistry can react by bringing down your mood.

Certain substances in food can also cause other problems that lead to low moods. For example, drinking too much caffeine can cause sleep deprivation, which in turn leads to a depressed mood. Disordered eating and unhealthy foods can also play significant roles in mental illnesses.

Common Disorders That Can Be Affected By Food

Unhealthy eating patterns can worsen several mental illnesses or serve as a sign that someone is struggling. The most obvious example is with eating disorders. The amount and kinds of food that people with eating disorders consume directly reflects their mental health.

However, LifeStance Health does not recommend that people with these disorders obsess over everything they eat. If you struggle with binging, purging, or food restriction, contact your counselor to design eating plans that make sense for you.

Patients with disorders such as anxiety and depression can improve their conditions with careful diets. While no diet can cure these disorders alone, foods that help with depression and anxiety can supplement your recovery efforts.

Sometimes, an unbalanced diet or absorption problem can cause depression and anxiety. While research is still new, some studies suggest that being deficient in any of these nutrients can cause depression:

  • Magnesium
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Selenium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B
  • Folate
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Iodine

Of course, food is not the only cause of depression and anxiety. Some people develop these disorders due to factors such as genetics or trauma. These patients may start unhealthy eating habits as a result of their disorders.

Regardless of whether an unbalanced diet is a cause or symptom for you, certain foods can help you on your road to recovery. One study found that people with depression significantly improved their symptoms by changing their diets for 12 weeks.

Recommended Foods That Can Boost Your Mood

If you’re ready to change your diet to support your mental health, consult your primary care doctor first. You may also ask for blood tests to see if you have deficiencies in any of the nutrients listed above. If your doctor agrees that you can change your diet, consider including the following mood-boosting foods:

  • Those high in antioxidants: Improve your mood by reducing inflammation with foods like Brazil nuts, dark chocolate, berries, beans, and leafy greens.
  • Good fats: Some research suggests that getting enough omega fatty acids can reduce anxiety. Several types of fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, and soybeans can help.
  • High in Vitamin D: Studies show that people who do not get enough Vitamin D experience significantly higher rates of depression. Get this important nutrient in foods like salmon, canned tuna, egg yolk, mushrooms, and fortified juices. If you don’t have any of those on hand, take a walk in the sunshine.
  • Chamomile Tea: If you’re heading into a situation that you worry will trigger anxiety, try sipping some chamomile tea ahead of time. While this should never replace your prescribed medications, it can supplement your routine and reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Multivitamins: If your doctor finds that you are deficient in one or more nutrient, you may wish to boost your recovery with supplements that include those nutrients. Talk to your doctor about what multivitamin you should use.




Healthy eating is just one piece of the recovery puzzle. Be sure to talk to a mental health professional to get a personalized plan for you. Contact us today to find a mental health professional near you.

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