The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ suggests that it is important to eat a broad variety of good quality food in order to maintain good health, fitness and nutrition.

However, we can now go one step further and say “you feel what you eat” as extensive research shows that the type of foods you eat do indeed impact your mood and the way you feel.

Here are five foods to try if you’re seeking a mood boost:

1. Everyone's Favourite Food... Chocolate (Preferably Dark)

It turns out that chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting compounds. It may improve mood and brain function due to its quick release of sugar into the bloodstream after consumption. Chocolate also contains caffeine, N-acylethanolamine and theobromine which have all been linked to mood enhancement.

Added ingredients like sugar and fat are usually found more commonly in milk and white chocolate so it is best to opt for dark chocolate if you’re seeking a quick pick-me-up.

a stack of dark chocolate

2. Bananas

Bananas contain a high amount of vitamin B6 which has been shown to hold many “anti-stress” properties. Vitamin B6 has also been shown to optimise feel-good hormone neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine allowing larger amounts of these chemicals to be released in the brain to heighten mood. 

3. Coffee

Although it’s not a food, coffee is the world's most popular drink. Love it or hate it, it may even be making the world a little bit happier as well. Research has shown that the caffeine in coffee maximises and increases the release of the mood boosting neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

The same study with 72 of the participants found that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee significantly improved mood when compared with a placebo beverage suggesting that there are other compounds within coffee that cause a heightened and improved mood. 

Pouring milk into coffee

4. Lentils And Beans

Lentils and beans are full of feel-good nutrients! They contain an abundance of B vitamins which help improve mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, dopamine, gamma aminobutyric acid and serotonin.

B vitamins also play a key role in nerve signalling which allows proper communication between nerve cells within the brain. Low levels of B vitamins have been linked to disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

5. Nuts And Seeds

line of different nuts

Similar to lentils and beans, nuts and seeds are packed full of mood-lifting goodies. They are very high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats and fibres. They also contain tryptophan which has been shown to produce serotonin, a feel-good hormone.

Nuts and seeds such as pine nuts, almonds and Brazil nuts are great sources of zinc and selenium. Deficiency in both has been associated with higher rates of depression.

The Bottom Line

There are an array of options at your disposal if you happen to be feeling a bit down in the dumps. Not only is there exercise, talking to others about how you feel and learning mindfulness but it’s also as easy and straightforward as paying attention to the kinds of foods you’re eating and picking up a quick snack when you feel like you need it!