Does What We Eat Affect Our Mood?

July 21, 2012

Does what we eat affect our mood?  It is very likely that foods we eat can affect our mood.  Our diet is very important in maintaining good health.  Although the diet is important, there is no absolute proof that a specific food or diet that can cure mental illness.  However, there is research that shows that our diet can affect our mood and aggravate existing mental conditions.

According to, a healthy diet may help in overall treatment of depression.  Foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and a small amount of healthy fat can help alleviate depression symptoms.  Deficiency in foods rich in these nutrients can cause our body to not work at is full-capacity and can even cause illness.

In fact, according to the Better Health Channel, a lack of B vitamins, magnesium and calcium can increase the symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Foods rich in magnesium include halibut, almonds, cashews, spinach and whole grains such as oatmeal and whole grain breads. You can get B vitamins from fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy sources such as milk and foods fortified with B vitamins such as cereals and breads. You can find calcium in dairy products, fortified foods such as cereals and juices, sardines, salmon and leafy green vegetables such as collards and spinach.

There also are things we should avoid in out diet, especially if experiencing anxiety or stress.  Alcohol and caffeine can trigger the release of the stress hormone, adrenaline, which can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety, according to The Anxiety and Depression Disorders Association of America.  The Association also recommends avoiding high energy drinks as well.  Sadly, many individuals turn to alcohol and caffeine when experiencing stress and anxiety.

Sugar causes the blood sugar to fluctuate so it can increase the symptoms of depression.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean sources of protein instead of fast food is highly recommended.  Personally, I have found that the busier I am, the less likely I am to eat a healthy diet.  Stress can make it hard to adhere to a diet that is best for our health, both physical and mental health.  For me, the key to keeping a healthy diet is planning meals in advance.

I love my Crockpot.  The Crockpot is a good way to prepare a meal when you do not have time to cook a meal.  I often put a lean roast and vegetables in the Crockpot.  I am busy during the day so it is great that by dinner time it is ready to eat.  I have made fresh homemade chili, spaghetti sauce and soups all in advance using the Crockpot.  I also keep fresh fruit and vegetables on hand, preferably organic, that can be eaten any time.  I love eating fish as well.

The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and nuts.  Ongoing research is showing that omega-3 rich foods may assist in the treatment of depression. Research is also showing the importance of Vitamin D.  There is a higher rate of depression among individuals with a deficiency in Vitamin D.

Research supports eating a Mediterranean diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy cereals, legumes and fish. Such a diet can help alleviate symptoms of depression.  Although research is ongoing in the area of diet and mental health, it definitely indicates that what we eat affects our mood. Foods that are already recommended we eat (fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, etc.) for staying healthy physically, appear to also help keep us mentally healthy as well.  So I, personally, will do my best to keep a healthy diet for both my body and my mind.  I hope you will too.

Sources and additional reading:

Foods That Fight Anxiety & Depression


Depression and Diet


Depression – Food for the Brain


Mediterranean Diet and Depression