What are Mood Foods?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2016
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Foods contain chemicals that can affect the brain, influencing how individuals feel and think, and sometimes how they act. A person might feel very different after binging on fast food, compared it to how he or she feels after eating a salad. Mood foods are foods that people eat that have an affect on how we feel every day. The way that the person feels can be a simple as one nutrient in the diet determining his high or low feeling for the next few hours. People who eat regularly and do not skip meals also experience a boost in mood.

One of the major factors in mood foods is the brain chemical serotonin. High levels of serotonin keep a person calm and relaxed, with a high level of concentration. Serotonin is also responsible for sleep, mood, and appetite levels. If levels of serotonin decrease, then the body may start to crave carbohydrates.

Unhappy feelings are often caused by low levels of serotonin. Good foods that contain high levels of serotonin are fish, chicken and turkey. Bananas, avocados, high fiber cereals and whole grain products can also boost the mood.


Although it has sometimes been given a bad reputation, fat is important in the good mood foods category. Too little fat in the diet will leave a person feeling unhappy because foods with high fat content release endorphins and make the person feel happy. People should stick to healthy fats, such as the monounsaturated fats that are found in some nut, olive, and fish oils. The omega-3 fatty acid found in some seafood is a great eliminator of depression and will keep the brain healthy.

Good foods to improve the mood also include those high in protein. Protein contains an amino acid called tyrosine, which increases levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, the chemicals responsible for excitement and alertness.

Foods high in essential vitamins and minerals are excellent good mood foods. A lack of folic acid in the diet has been found to be a factor in depression. Similarly, a lack of selenium will cause unhappy and anxious feelings. Green leafy vegetables, turkey, and asparagus are all high in folic acid. Whole grains, eggs and tuna fish are good sources of selenium.

Unfortunately, many bad mood foods also taste great. Foods that are high in sugar can negatively affect mood, although they will give an initial instant lift. Around an hour later, a drop in mood and energy will follow. A sugar rush can lead to mood swings, including anxiety, irritation, lethargy and anxiety.

Foods that can cause a bad mood also include those with lots of additives, preservatives, and food colorings. Most experts recommend that people try to stick to foods that have a low glycemic index (GI). This indicates that the sugar level is low and will not cause a sugar rush.


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Post 4

Protein and fiber are good bases to begin with. As bestcity has described, it is a great way to level out your mood and help prevent depression. Depression is also linked to genetics and is a very hard thing to overcome, so if you notice signs early on it is best to get treatment or talk to some one about it as soon as possible. The food and mood connection is immense, but I don't think that many people really make that connection.

Post 3

@BelugaWhale - You can consider Serotonin to act somewhat like a mood stabilizer. It is also one of the things that helps depressions. Foods that contain a lot of fiber will help you to feel fuller longer. It's why Kellogg's has developed the fiber line of products in order to help people lose weight.

Protein from "non-traditional" sources (I am assuming you mean meat and might be vegetarian/vegan) is just as good as protein found in red meats, BUT! Just remember that red meat is a huge source of protein and you are not likely to find as much protein in, say, a can of tuna or eggs (not that that is a vegetarian product) as you will in steak.

Post 2

I am just curious - what is the point of serotonin? Most of my meals consist of fiber and protein, but not from traditional meat sources, does that make any difference? I am a 23 year old female. Thanks!

Post 1

It is important to include a protein in the three meals. Protein will raise the chemical tryptophan in the bloodstream which will eventually turn into serotonin.

In between meals a small carbohydrate snack will help elevate serotonin. This is particularly beneficial to women. Women produce less serotonin than men do.

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