Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Mood

Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Mood

Recent research highlights the strong connection between diet and mental health, revealing that what we eat significantly influences brain chemistry, hormones, and energy levels. Studies show that specific foods can boost general mood by affecting neurotransmitter production, reducing inflammation, and providing essential nutrients for brain health. From antioxidant-rich dark chocolate to fish high in omega-3, there are a many foods which have been proven to have mood-enhancing properties. In this blog, we will explore ten science-backed mood-boosting foods. By nourishing your gut with the right foods, you can foster a healthier, more balanced mood.

Can the Gut Microbiome Affect General Mood?

The term 'gut microbiome' or 'gut microbiota' describes the trillions of microorganisms residing in our gastrointestinal tract. These microorganisms play a crucial role in our overall health, including our mental well-being. A healthy gut microbiome can also reduce inflammation and produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is referred to as the "happy hormone." Incorporating gut-friendly foods such as fermented foods into your diet can help support gut health and in turn contribute to a more positive, balanced mood. [1]

Top 10 Foods That Are Mood-Boosting

1. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a well-documented mood enhancer, rich in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which can stimulate the production of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain responsible for pleasure. Moreover, dark chocolate contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as an antidepressant. Studies suggest that consuming dark chocolate in moderation can improve mood and cognitive function. In fact, five studies have found that chocolate either resulted in a positive mood or decreased a “bad” mood, according to Professor Andrew Scholey from Monash University. [2] For a palatable and potentially health-promoting option, choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.

Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Mood

2. Berries

Berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are high in antioxidants and vitamins, especially vitamin C. These nutrients help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are linked to depression and anxiety. Research indicates that the polyphenols in berries can enhance mood and cognitive functions, making them a smart choice for a healthy snack.

3. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Omega-3s, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), play a crucial role in maintaining cell membrane fluidity in the brain and reducing inflammation. Studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation can reduce symptoms of depression, making fatty fish a valuable addition to your diet.

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fibre. Clinical trials have demonstrated that regular consumption of nuts and seeds can improve mood and reduce the risk of depression. This is largely due to being high in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin. Nuts also contain zinc and selenium, which are important for brain function. Being deficient in these minerals has been associated with higher rates of depression. Looking to increase your intake of nuts, with the aim of mood enhancement in mind? Try these:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds

5. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are rich in probiotics, which support gut health. A healthy gut microbiome is closely linked to a healthy brain through the gut-brain axis. Probiotics can influence the production of neurotransmitters and reduce inflammation, which in turn can improve mood and mental health. With regular intake of fermented food, you may experience a mood enhancement.

6. Coffee

Can't get through the day without at least one shot of coffee? Or more? A few studies in recent years have shown the benefits of coffee for both cognitive and cardiovascular health. In a double-blind, caffeinated coffee improved the overall mood of 72 habitual coffee drinkers compared to decaf and a placebo. Coffee also contains chlorogenic acids, which are said to have some benefits for mood. [3]

Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Mood

7. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are rich in folate, which helps reduce symptoms of depression and fatigue. Epidemiological studies have found a correlation between high folate intake and a reduced risk of depression, making leafy greens an essential part of a mood-boosting diet.

If you're not a fan of greens, supplements such as Organic Super Greens by Nature's Help are a more palatable option.

8. Whole Grains

Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat bread are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. These carbohydrates increase serotonin production in the brain, helping to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Whole grains also provide sustained energy, preventing the mood dips associated with blood sugar fluctuations. Research supports the benefits of whole grains in mood regulation.

9. Olive Oil

Olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil (also known as EVOO), has been shown to have potential benefits for mood. A study involving 73 patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) found that those who consumed 25 millilitres of extra virgin olive oil daily for 52 days experienced significant improvements in their depression symptoms compared to those who consumed sunflower oil. [4] The study, which assessed depression using well-established scales, found that patients with severe depression experienced the most benefit. Although the exact mechanism of action was not determined (cortisol and BDNF levels remained unchanged), the clinical significance of olive oil in mood enhancement is evident.

10. Green Tea

Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation without causing drowsiness. It also contains a small amount of caffeine, providing a gentle energy boost. Research has demonstrated that regular consumption of green tea can enhance calmness and improve overall mood.

Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Mood

Foods to Avoid

Just as certain foods can enhance your mood, others can have the opposite effect. Certain foods, particularly those that are highly processed, can disrupt the balance of your gut bacteria and lead to feeling lethargic or irritable. If you want to avoid foods that can lower your mood, it's a good idea to limit or avoid the following:

  • Soft drinks
  • Processed and refined carbohydrates
  • Highly processed meats
  • Products high in sodium
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Products high in sugar
  • Alcohol


Incorporating these scientifically-backed mood-boosting foods into your diet are great first steps to improving your overall mental well-being. A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and good sleep hygiene are all essential components of maintaining a positive mood and a healthy lifestyle. Start making small changes to your diet today and notice the difference in how you feel.


  • 1. Taylor, A.M. A review of dietary and microbial connections to depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • 2. Scholey A, Owen L. Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review.
  • 3. Cropley V, Croft R, Silber B. Does coffee enriched with chlorogenic acids improve mood and cognition after acute administration in healthy elderly?
  • 4. Foshati S, Ghanizadeh A, Akhlaghi M. Extra-virgin olive oil improves depression symptoms without affecting salivary cortisol and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in patients with major depression: a double-blind randomized controlled trial.

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