Food and Mood

Mar 17, 2023 Mood 6 MIN

Food and Mood

Quick Health Scoop

  • What you eat is most likely impacting how you feel
  • There are a variety of nutrients that you can add to your daily diet to help support your mood
  • To feel your best mentally and physically, eat a well-balanced diet, stay hydrated and get regular physical activity

Your daily dietary choices may impact your emotions. How? Food can make you feel good, guilty, or leave us you disappointed. The saying, “You are what you eat,” does hold some truth. Some foods can affect your production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood, while some foods help provide your cells the energy they need to function, and other foods help feed the good bacteria living in your gut. So essentially, what you eat may impact how your body feels throughout the day and that can impact your mood. That’s why it’s important to not only evaluate what you are eating, but how much and when.

Read on for some tips for how you can support your mood through your daily diet.

8 Diet Tips for Supporting Your Mood

Essentially, there is no one food that you can rely on to affect your mood. Instead, eating a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet is your best option, especially one that contains fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean protein and healthy fats. Here are some helpful tips to get you thinking about your food choices and how they may affect your mood:

  1. Start your day with breakfast

This tip is probably not new. Many people believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you think about it, after you wake up, it’s been (at least) seven hours since your last meal and/or your last sip of water (hopefully at least 7 uninterrupted hours). When you eat in the morning, you replenish your supply of glucose to help your energy levels. Having energy will help improve your overall mood. If you don’t eat, your energy level drops, and you might feel sluggish and irritable.[1] Aim for a hearty breakfast that has fiber (fruit or vegetable), protein and whole grains (oats or whole grain bread) instead of empty calories from sugary treats (like donuts or pastries).

  1. Eat your fruits and veggies!

Fruits and vegetables aren’t just good for your body, they’re good for your mood, too. Some research has suggested that people who eat more raw (un-processed) fruits and vegetables are more likely to have a positive mood.[2] But what comes first? Do we feel better because of our good food choices? Or do our good food choices make us feel better? Either way, fruits and vegetables are packed with important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at its best. Eating more of them might make you feel good about your day. Aim to have at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables.

  1. Eat foods with tryptophan

You might be familiar with tryptophan if you eat turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. However, what you might not know is this amino acid is a precursor to serotonin, a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) that helps regulate your mood. Consuming foods with tryptophan may help promote more serotonin activity in the brain, which may then affect your mood.[3, 4] Besides turkey, foods that contain tryptophan include eggs, cheese, tofu, salmon, nuts and seeds. To best impact tryptophan levels (and thereby serotonin production), aim to consume these foods as part of a well-balanced meal that includes carbohydrates.[5]

  1. Feed your gut fiber

Eating foods that are high in fiber will help feed the good bacteria in your gut, which helps support your overall digestive health. But even better, feeding these good microbes can affect your serotonin levels (that feel-good neurotransmitter we just talked about) through a pathway called the gut-brain axis.[4] That’s a win-win. What are these good-gut foods? Food sources of fiber include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale), avocados, oats, chia seeds, berries, beans (kidney beans) and even dark chocolate.

  1. Eat fatty fish

Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA & DHA) are essential fats—meaning your body needs you to consume them through food. EPA and DHA specifically have been found to help support your mood when consuming them in larger amounts (at least 1000 mg for EPA).[6] These fatty acids are found in (you guessed it) fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. In fact, one 3 oz serving of cooked Atlantic salmon will provide you around 1,800 mg of EPA & DHA combined, so it’s solid choice when looking for nutritious feel-good food.[7]

  1. Stay hydrated

Drinking water (between 6-8 glasses a day) can impact how you feel.[8] When you’re not getting enough fluids, you might find it hard to think clearly, thus increasing your chances of becoming irritable. That’s because dehydration can deplete the levels of amino acids in your brain (including serotonin).[9] Make sure you’re regularly drinking water! Coffee, tea and juice do count toward your hydration needs, although they may come with added sugars. Bottom line: if you want to feel your best, make sure you’re satisfying your thirst.

  1. Drink more green tea

We’re not going to say don’t drink caffeine. It’s a stimulant that can help you feel more alert. That’s why (for some of us) caffeine is a vital part of our morning (or afternoon). The FDA considers caffeine consumption safe up to 400 mg a day (which is roughly the equivalent of four 8 oz cups of coffee).[10] If you find that you do want some caffeine, maybe opt for a cup of green tea. Why? Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which has been known to help promote relaxation and an overall calming feeling. One cup of green tea can induce both a stimulating and relaxing effect thanks to caffeine and L-theanine, making it a good choice for your mood.[11, 12]  

  1. Get exercise

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a food tip, but exercise is an important partner to a well-balanced diet. Exercise not only helps improve your body physically by getting your blood pumping and strengthening muscles, but it can also impact your mood. How? Exercise stimulates increases your level of endorphins, which then creates feelings of pleasure so that you feel happier.[13] Physical activity, such as running, cycling, and even walking, can help promote a positive mood and reduce stress in the moment. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and do it consistently.[14]

The Bottom Line

When we are well fed, active and hydrated, we will probably feel our best both physically and mentally. If you want to help your mood, make sure you’re eating nutrient-dense foods on a regular basis while drinking water throughout the day. It’s important to note that not everyone will feel the same effects from eating the same foods. Diets are a personal choice. Pay attention to what you are eating and when as well as your mood, and then you can start making dietary choices that will help put you in the best mood.

Learn More About a Healthy Lifestyle

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information. 


  1. Gibney MJ, Barr SI, Bellisle F, et al. Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative. Nutrients. 2018;10(5):559. Published 2018 May 1. doi:10.3390/nu10050559.
  2. Brookie KL, Best GI, Conner TS. Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Is Associated With Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables. Front Psychol. 2018;9:487. Published 2018 Apr 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487.
  3. Jenkins TA, Nguyen JC, Polglaze KE, Bertrand PP. Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients. 2016;8(1):56. Published 2016 Jan 20. doi:10.3390/nu8010056.
  4. Jenkins TA, Nguyen JC, Polglaze KE, Bertrand PP. Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients. 2016;8(1):56. Published 2016 Jan 20. doi:10.3390/nu8010056.
  5. Herrera CP, Smith K, Atkinson F, et al. High-glycaemic index and -glycaemic load meals increase the availability of tryptophan in healthy volunteers. Br J Nutr. 2011;105(11):1601-1606. doi:10.1017/S0007114510005192.
  6. Kidd PM. Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids. Altern Med Rev. 2007;12(3):207-227.
  7. Pross N, Demazières A, Girard N, et al. Effects of changes in water intake on mood of high and low drinkers. PLoS One. 2014;9(4):e94754. Published 2014 Apr 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094754.
  8. Masento NA, Golightly M, Field DT, Butler LT, van Reekum CM. Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014;111(10):1841-1852. doi:10.1017/S0007114513004455.
  9. Liska D, Mah E, Brisbois T, Barrios PL, Baker LB, Spriet LL. Narrative Review of Hydration and Selected Health Outcomes in the General Population. Nutrients. 2019;11(1):70. Published 2019 Jan 1. doi:10.3390/nu11010070.
  10. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much? Dec 12 2018. Accessed Mar 6 2023:,it%20(break%20it%20down).
  11. Dietz C, Dekker M. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(19):2876-2905. doi:10.2174/1381612823666170105151800.
  12. Suzanne J Einöther, Vanessa E Martens, Acute effects of tea consumption on attention and mood, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 98, Issue 6, December 2013, Pages 1700S–1708S,
  13. Chaudhry SR, Gossman W. Biochemistry, Endorphin. [Updated 2022 Apr 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
  14. Basso JC, Suzuki WA. The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plast. 2017;2(2):127-152. Published 2017 Mar 28. doi:10.3233/BPL-160040.


Amy Mills Klipstine

NatureMade Sr. Copywriter

Amy has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles and is a credentialed English teacher, though she left the classroom to write full time. She especially enjoys creating educational content about health, wellness, and nutrition. Her happy place is in the kitchen, and when not writing, you can find her trying out “kid-friendly recipes” and “healthy desserts for chocolate lovers” from her Pinterest board.

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Lynn M. Laboranti, RD

Science and Health Educator

Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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