Intermountain Health logo

Please enter the city or town where you'd like to find care.

Get care nowMake an appointmentSign in

Health news and blog

Can Certain Foods Boost Your Mood?

Can Certain Foods Boost Your Mood?

By Author Name

Aug 23, 2019

Updated Nov 17, 2023

5 min read

Can Certain Foods Boost Your Mood?

Learn more about SCL Health's Nutrition and Weight Loss and Bariatrics services. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could eat a magic fruit and immediately become happier? Well if that exists, we haven’t found it. But we do know that eating certain foods can have a notably significant impact on our overall mood. Let’s take a minute to digest that one, shall we?

The Link Between Our Gut and Our Brain

Have you ever had the sense that you feel better after a week of eating healthy? There’s a reason for that. A whopping 95% of serotonin is thought to be located in the gastrointestinal tract. That same tract is also teeming with hundreds of millions of nerve cells, so it’s easy to see how your gut can have a big influence on your brain. It’s no wonder why so many side effects of mood-altering prescriptions directly affect your stomach — nausea, diarrhea, etc. Our gut biome clearly plays a big role in our lives, which is why it’s so important to stay up on your probiotics and prebiotics. In fact, studies have shown that anxiety levels, stress and mental outlook were all improved when people take probiotics.

Disclaimer: Always consult your physician before beginning any prebiotic or probiotic supplements.

Happy Foods for an Improved ’Tude

Certain nutrients have even been found to have a positive effect against depression. One study found these 12 nutrients to be the most effective:

  1. Folate
  2. Iron
  3. Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)
  4. Magnesium
  5. Potassium
  6. Selenium
  7. Thiamine
  8. Vitamin A
  9. Vitamin B6
  10. Vitamin B12
  11. Vitamin C
  12. Zinc

Now, if you’re wondering what kinds of foods contain these specific nutrients, well, we hope you like seafood and veggies. Bivalves (oysters and mussels) and other seafood were among the highest-scoring animal foods, along with organ meats. Leafy greens, lettuce, peppers and cruciferous vegetables were the game changers for plant foods.

Avoiding the Sugar and Stress Cycle

By this point, we all know that eating too much sugar can lead to a lot of problems. On the light end of the scale we have sugar crashes, and on the more serious side we have diabetes. But even though we know not to overindulge, it’s easier said than done when we’re stressed out. The American Psychological Association tells us that we seek sugar as a quick way to get some upbeat energy when we’re stressed out. But too much sugar can upset that all-important gut biome and also lead to a cycle where we seek sweets instead of something more substantial. The best way to curb that extra stress? Exercise on a regular basis.

So for your next meal, really think about how what you eat can affect your day, both physically and mentally!