Mood enhancing foods: The best foods for a happier you

Are you looking for a tasty list of good mood food? Some of the healthiest food in the world can be easily added to your favorite recipes – simply for a happier you. So, check out the list of mood enhancing foods below. We have done the research for you!

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Research shows that your digestive system doesn’t just help digest food – it’s the control center of how you feel. In fact, your gut produces over 90% of the body’s serotonin, known as the “happy molecule”. A nickname that stems from its contribution to well-being and happiness. Research into mood enhancing foods and how certain good foods can affect mood is “the new black” in health management. Nutritional psychiatrists such as Dr. Naidoo, for instance, is sharing about mood enhancing foods in her book on how you can calm your mind with food.

Below we will look at the fascinating connection between food and mood – and what are the best foods to choose for a happier you. 

“The way you think and feel depends largely on what you eat”

Lourdes Ramónin an interview with Vogue
Mood Enhancing Foods and good mood food

Remember, variety in your diet is a key to success – and every little helps! We are all busy trying to juggle jobs, friends, exercise, sleep, kids, partners, pets, and finding inspiration for the best foods to eat …

So, it is important be kind to yourself, celebrate your wins along the way and enjoy the journey.

  • You can also follow us on Instagram for more inspiration as we share the best foods and gut healthy recipes for busy lives!

Mounting research connects gut and mood

We have trillions of microbes in our gut, also called the gut microbiome, and what we eat directly affects these microbes. By giving them the best foods, they will – like any living organism – thrive. And in turn help you feel better and lift your mood.  

While no single food or food groups are a cure-all, mounting research tells us that incorporating certain mood enhancing foods into our diet can help improve mood and brain function. We’ll go into detail below, but first, here’s the short-list of mood enhancing foods:

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Add these mood enhancing foods to your shopping list

  • Salmon, mackerel, and sardines for healthy fats.
  • Oats, yogurt and kefir. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
  • Pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
  • Bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, spinach, and kale.
  • Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic.
  • Eggs and chicken. Buckwheat tea, dark chocolate (70% or more) and extra virgin olive oil.
Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

Discover the power of seed nutrition

Discover the science-backed health benefits of seed nutrition*

The science behind mood enhancing foods

Beans and lentils. Beans and lentils are mood enhancing foods because they are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to make mood-boosting serotonin. They are also an excellent source of B vitamins, which help improve mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), all of which are important for regulating mood.

Good foods to add to soups, stews, and tomato sauces are chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils as they are perfect budget-friendly mood enhancing foods! For instance, try this delicious minestrone soup – also called longevity soup!

Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

Nuts. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts are excellent sources of tryptophan, magnesium, and zinc, and therefore good foods to help regulate mood and reduce anxiety. Furthermore, Brazil nuts and pine nuts are rich in zinc, and deficiency in these minerals is associated with higher rates of depression.

Eating a handful of nuts daily may help lower the risk of depression. You can also add nuts to your favorite granola recipe!

Seeds. Seeds are among the healthiest food in the world and great for gut health and mood because they are high in plant-based proteins, healthy Omega-3 fats, and fiber. These mood enhancing foods also provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Certain seeds are high in tryptophan, zinc, and selenium, which may support brain function and lower the risk of depression. This granola with seeds and honey is a Guts & Glory Health team favorite!

The following are tasty seeds to include in your diet: pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, flax, chia, hemp seeds.

Incorporating these seeds into your diet can provide various mental health benefits. Indeed, studies have shown that regularly eating small amounts of seeds can help reduce feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. You can also eat coldpressed seeds as a supplement – one of Tonje at Guts & Glory Health’ favorites!

Adding healthy fats and probiotics can boost your mood!

Fatty fish. Eating fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, contain omega-3 fatty acids, are mood enhancing foods that can improve your mental health. Like seeds, salmon is among the healthiest food in the world. Research suggests that these healthy fats may have a mood-stabilizing effect and help with symptoms of depression.  

It’s worth noting that the body can’t produce Omega-3 on its own and we must therefore get it through our diet. So finding the best foods with Omega-3 is super important! Try this oh-so-tasty salmon ceviche salad!

Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

Yogurt and kefir. New research suggests that yogurt can help anxiety and depression, which supports the growing evidence regarding the relationship between the gut and brain, and the effect diet has on our mental health. In fact, one study showed that eating a cup of yogurt containing live cultures every day could significantly reduce anxiety.

Similarly, research shows that drinking kefir milk regularly can improve brain health and mood. Note that it is suggested to consume fiber together with probiotics “as fiber is the fuel used by probiotic organisms while in the GI tract”. Source: 6 Health Benefits Of Kefir, According To Nutrition Experts – Forbes Health

“The fact that Lactobacillus, commonly found in fermented foods and yogurt, is linked to stress management and potential prevention of depression and anxiety opens up exciting possibilities for holistic approaches to mental health.”

Aviva Romm, MD
Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

You may also like this article on the benefit of kefir milk, as kefir is one of the best foods you can add to your list of mood enhancing foods:

DISCOVER THE BENEFIT OF KEFIR MILK plus 9 top kefir brands

Fill up your grocery list with these mood enhancing foods

Oats. Oats are some of the best foods for your mood for several reasons. They are a great source of fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and energy levels, leading to a more stable mood. Also, the slow-burning complex carbohydrates in oats can impact serotonin levels, which are linked to anxiety, and can help regulate mood and brain functioning. Oats are also packed with protein, B vitamins, and magnesium, making them one of the best foods to help reduce anxiety and depression.

  • Oats, seeds and salmon are on the top list of the healthiest food in the world!

Oats are great in home-made granola, easy overnight oats and to add fiber in waffles and pancakes.

Bananas. Bananas are considered mood enhancing foods because of their nutritional content. They contain vitamin B6, which helps manufacture serotonin. Additionally, bananas contain tryptophan, that the body uses to produce serotonin and melatonin – which in turn regulate mood and sleep. Bananas also contain magnesium, which further increases sleepiness, making them a great evening treat. Bananas have a lot of prebiotic fiber and potassium, and this is linked to a good mood.

In short, bananas are among the best foods to snack on!

Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

Buckwheat tea. Buckwheat tea is extremely calming and soothing – and it has shown to be very helpful in reducing stress and anxiety levels. CLICK HERE to purchase the best buckwheat tea, one of the Guts & Glory Health team’s absolute favorites.

Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate (containing over 70% cocoa) is also some of the best foods for your mood due to several reasons. Ok, so maybe chocolate isn’t food per se … but it contains compounds such as polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties and have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

Furthermore, dark chocolate contains serotonin, which contributes to mood regulation and can help boost your mood.

Berries. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in particular, are some of the best foods known for their mood-boosting properties. They are packed with antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which may help manage inflammation associated with depression and other mood disorders.

Other foods that can boost your mood …

Chicken. Poultry, such as chicken, are on the list of mood enhancing foods due to its nutrient content. Chicken contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to higher levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone, in the brain. Also, chicken is a great source of vitamin B12, which is essential for mood regulation, and it also contains zinc, involved in brain function and development.

Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

Eggs. Are good for your mood because they contain amino acids such as tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin – which in turn plays a vital role in mood, learning, and sleep.

They also contain choline, which helps improve mood, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodide, nutrients that work together to battle fatigue and reverse bad moods.

Note! You need to eat the yolk, not just the egg whites, for these benefits.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Today’s modern diet is highly inflammatory, with too much sugar, ultra-processed foods, and additives. Eating good foods that reduce inflammation, on the other hand, can help reduce the risk of depression studies show. These are mood enhancing foods and rich in antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals, which can help prevent and limit inflammation. In fact, by adding anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, you can boost well-being and improve your mood.  

Anti-inflammatory foods that are good for your mood include leafy greens such as kale and spinach, extra virgin olive oil, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cherries, and garlic.

Limit ultra-processed foods

Just PLEASE limit the amount of ultra-processed foods you eat. They are the opposite of good foods for a happy balanced diet! If the ingredients listed are not commonly found in a kitchen, then it’s ultra-processed. In one 2022 study of over 10,000 adults in the United States, cited by The New York Times, the more ultra-processed foods participants ate, the more likely they were to report mild depression or feelings of anxiety.

Mood enhancing foods and really good foods for mood - also called good mood food - or the best foods for a happier you

Mood enhancing foods summarized

In summary, a growing body of evidence shows us that what we eat has a major effect on our gut microbes and how they communicate with our brain. And this, in turn, influences how we think and feel. We need the best foods and a balanced diet to thrive. This is giving rise to the field of nutritional psychiatry, unravelling the fascinating and direct link between what you eat – and your mood.

Bonus read: Learn more about the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry!

Nutritional psychiatry is a field of study that examines the relationship between diet and mental health. It explores how the best foods can impact brain function, mood, and overall mental well-being. This emerging area of research suggests that dietary patterns play a significant role in preventing, managing, and even treating various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Consequently, paying attention to mood enhancing foods when grocery shopping is key!

Research in nutritional psychiatry indicates that certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B and D, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants, are crucial for optimal brain function. These nutrients play roles in neurotransmitter synthesis, inflammation regulation, and neuronal signaling, all of which influence mood and cognitive function. Conversely, diets high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats have been associated with an increased risk of mental health issues.

Which diet can support your brain and mental health?

Key dietary patterns linked to improved mental health include the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil.

This diet is rich in nutrients that support brain health and has been linked to a lower risk of depression and cognitive decline. Similarly, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which focuses on reducing sodium intake and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, has shown benefits for mental well-being.

Nutritional psychiatry also highlights the importance of gut health in mental health. The gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication network between the gut and the brain, plays a crucial role in regulating mood and behavior. Probiotics, prebiotics, and dietary fiber are components of mood enhancing foods that support a healthy gut microbiome. Which in turn can positively influence mental health!

In clinical practice, nutritional psychiatry interventions may involve dietary modifications – that is adding mood enhancing foods to your diet. In addition to supplementation with specific nutrients, and lifestyle changes like regular exercise and stress management techniques. While more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying the diet-mental health connection, nutritional psychiatry offers promising avenues for promoting mental well-being through dietary interventions.

“The way you think and feel depends largely on what you eat”

Lourdes Ramónin an interview with Vogue

Famous researchers and scientists within the field

Nutritional psychiatry, a burgeoning field, explores the link between diet and mental health. Several prominent figures have emerged, offering insights and guidance on mood enhancing foods. Among them, Dr. Uma Naidoo stands out. A Harvard-trained psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutrition specialist, Dr. Naidoo has significantly contributed to the field. Her book, “This Is Your Brain on Food,” delves into what are the best foods for mental health, offering evidence-based advice on dietary choices to alleviate conditions like anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

Another key figure is Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. He authored “Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety,” advocating for nutrient-rich diets to improve mental health. Dr. Ramsey’s work emphasizes the importance of whole foods, rich in vitamins and minerals, and their impact on brain function and emotional well-being.

Dr. Felice Jacka, an Australian researcher and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), has also made substantial contributions. Her research, particularly the SMILES trial, underscores the potential of dietary interventions in treating depression. Dr. Jacka’s book, “Brain Changer,” provides practical advice on incorporating mood-boosting foods into daily diets.

These experts collectively highlight the profound connection between nutrition and mental health, promoting dietary strategies as complementary treatments for psychiatric conditions.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

  • Prebiotics probiotics difference

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  • The Best Seeds for Gut Health

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  • Mango kefir smoothie with banana

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  • What you need to know about probiotic benefits

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SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food – Harvard Health

How Food Can Improve Your Mood | TIME

What Anti-Inflammatory Foods Can Do for Your Mood | Psychology Today

Mood Food: 9 Foods That Can Really Boost Your Spirits (healthline.com)

Eating Small Daily Handful of Nuts Linked to Lower Risk of Depression (healthline.com)

How Eating Ultraprocessed Foods Can Affect Your Mental Health – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Calm Your Mind with Food – UmaNaidooMD