Have you noticed the days getting shorter and colder? This means winter is right around the corner, and with it an estimated 14 percent of Americans will get the winter blues – a dip in mood that corresponds with the change in seasons.1
Countless others struggle with the “blahs” and negative moods year-round, but few equate it with one of the biggest mood influencers around: your diet.
The foods you choose to eat often have a major impact on your emotional well-being, and some of the most “comforting” food items of all may, in fact, be the worst for your emotional health …
What are the 4 WORST Foods for Your Mood?
1. Ice Cream
Is a bowl of ice cream your go-to reward after a long stressful day? The sugar it contains could make your mood even worse, as it suppresses a growth hormone in the brain called BDNF, which is known to be low in people who are feeling sadness and despair.2 Not only that, but it will cause a rapid increase in your blood sugar (the sugar rush) … followed by an inevitable crash (the sugar crash) that will leave you feeling lethargic, tired and probably cranky.
A bagel is another mood buster, as it’s a hefty serving of simple carbs, which your body processes much like sugar. You can expect the same emotional roller coaster when you eat a giant bagel (or muffin, sugary cereal or pancakes) that you get when you eat ice cream, cookies, candy or cake …
3. Triple-Shot Espresso
Love a good strong cup of java? The caffeine hit may make you crazy productive at first, but, like sugar, the rush doesn’t come without a cost. Too much caffeine can make you jittery and irritable. One study even found that consuming just 200 mg of caffeine (that’s only about one 12-ounce cup of coffee) not only decreased relaxation but also increased feelings of anxiousness, tenseness and nervousness.3
4. Binging on Wine or Beer
A glass or two of wine on occasion is fine, and may even boost your mood temporarily. But if you consume the entire bottle, your mood is likely to plummet soon thereafter. Alcohol is a depressant, after all, and it will have a depressing effect on your mood.
8 Best Good Mood Foods
These foods can be eaten with abandon, as they will only serve to boost your mood and emotional well-being.
1. Leafy Green Veggies
A big salad or a side of steamed spinach will give you a hearty dose of folic acid, a wonderful nutrient to improve blood flow to your brain and boost your mood by helping your body maintain levels of serotonin.
2. Wild-Caught Salmon
Salmon is one of the best animal-based sources of omega-3 fats, which are known to positively influence mood as well as improve communication among neurons in your brain, and reduce anger and irritability. People with higher levels of omega-3s in their blood have actually been found to be more agreeable than those with low levels, who tend to have a more negative outlook.4
If you’re not a fan of salmon, taking a high potency fish oil supplement is a good way to get your daily dose of omega-3s.
3. Grass-Fed Beef or Free-Range Chicken
These healthy sources of protein are excellent sources of vitamin B12, too. B vitamins, including vitamin B12, play a role in producing brain chemicals that support mood health, and low levels are linked to poor mood. A high quality B vitamin supplement may be particularly helpful for additional support during times of stress and fatigue.
4. Brazil Nuts
Just one Brazil nut provides about 120 mcg of the antioxidant selenium, which is about twice as much as the recommended daily allowance. Low selenium levels are linked to poor mood,5 whereas supplementing with selenium daily has been found to significantly boost mood. Because it’s possible to overdose on selenium, you need to be careful with taking too much, but you’re unlikely to overdose when you get selenium from food sources.
Papaya is a tasty source of vitamin C, which is well known for its beneficial impact on mood. One study found that vitamin C boosts mood scores by 34 percent among hospitalized patients with low levels.6 One average-size papaya contains over 300% of the recommended daily value, so even a cup or two should boost your C levels — and your mood — significantly.
6. Black Beans
Remember how a bagel can send you on an emotional roller coaster of mood swings due to its rapid impact on your blood sugar levels? Black beans have the opposite effect. As a complex carb, they provide your body with a slow-burning source of energy that keeps your blood sugar levels even and balanced throughout the day, which means more energy, and more mood stability, for you.
7. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is actually a healthy source of antioxidants, provided you eat it in moderation. Even better, dark chocolate in particular may help lower stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines, leaving you less anxious and stressed.7 This mood-boosting effect was found among those eating just 1.4 ounces a day … so you don’t need to overdo it (and remember, milk chocolate and white chocolate are much higher in sugar, and may therefore have the opposite effect on your mood).
8. Green Tea
Sipping on a cup of green tea may have a calming effect on your mood, thanks to an amino acid it contains called theanine. Theanine is unique in that it helps promote a state of deep relaxation while also promoting mental alertness, and it even helps to counteract the stimulating effects of caffeine.
Nutritional Supplements That Support Mood and Well-Being
In addition to the fish oil and B vitamins already mentioned, there are a few other options to consider, especially during times of stress. A well-balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins and fats will always serve your mood well, but if you’re not eating right or feel you need additional mood support, try:
- Inositol: Required for proper formation of cell membranes, inositol is part of the B-Complex family of vitamins. Many people take Inositol for help with mood stabilization and to help reduce daily stress and anxiety.
- Ginseng: Ginseng is an herb known to help improve your body’s resistance to stress.
- St. John’s Wort: Used to promote emotional health and maintain normal mood, St. John’s Wort appears to be help relieve mild mood problems, and is even used as a prescription antidepressant in Germany.
1. PsychCentral July 23, 2009
2. Physiol Behav. 1988;44(3):367-72.
3. Study presented by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers at the 64th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, Denver, Colorado, March 4, 2006
4. Complement Ther Med. 2012 Jun;20(3):119-23. Epub 2012 Jan 30.
5. Nutrition, Volume 27, Issue 5 , Pages 530-533, May 2011
6. J. Proteome Res., 2009, 8 (12), pp 5568–5579
7. L-Theanine: How a Unique Anxiety Reducer and Mood Enhancer Increases Alpha Waves and Alertness, by Carolyn Perrini, CLS, CNC