Food and Mood

Taylor Combes, BS Exercise Science Health Promotion

We all could use a little mood booster. What better and easier way than to make a few small dietary changes? Science has shown that changes in diet can bring about changes in our brain structure (chemically and physiologically) which can lead to altered behavior. While certain foods may not instantly ease depression, they may help to increase mood as part of an overall treatment plan. So how can you use food to boost your mood?!

  1. Choose SMART Carbs
    Tryptophan – the connection between carbs and mood. As more enters the brain, the more serotonin is synthesized, and the more your mood tends to improve. Smart carbohydrate choices can boost your tryptophan levels including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Eliminating carbs can actually have the reverse effect on mood and lead to enhanced fatigue.
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    Research has proven that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) may help protect against depression by positively affecting the neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. Shoot for 2-3 servings of fish per week!
  3. Eat a Balanced Breakfast
    Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood, better memory, more energy throughout the day and feelings of calmness. In turn, skipping breakfast is linked to fatigue and anxiety. Reach for high fiber foods, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grain carbohydrates!
  4. Exercise Regularly
    The Center for Health Studies in Seattle found a dominant link between depression and lower amounts of physical activity. In addition, low mood increases the desire for a higher calorie intake. Check your calendars for our onsite fitness classes including Strength Training and Yoga!
  5. Vitamin D
    Vitamin D increases the levels of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) in the brain. Particularly linked with seasonal affective disorder, researchers noticed that moods increased throughout the course of a year as Vitamin D levels improved according to season. Aim for about 600 international units (IU) of Vitamin D a day from food – fatty fish, dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, egg yolks, etc.
  6. Selenium-Rich Foods
    Studies have reported a link between low selenium intake and poorer moods. Daily recommendations equal at least 55 micrograms of selenium a day by incorporating seafood, nuts & seeds, lean meat, whole grains and beans/legumes.
  7. Don’t Overdo Caffeine
    Although coffee & caffeine has proven health benefits, as mentioned previously in Time with Taylor, caffeine may also exacerbate depression. If caffeine begins to interfere with your sleep patterns, your mood can definitely be negatively affected.