Mood Food: 9 Foods That Can Really Boost Your Spirits

When you’re feeling down, it can be tempting to turn to food to lift your spirits. However, the sugary, high calorie treats that many people resort to have negative consequences of their own.

Thus, you may wonder whether any healthy foods can improve your mood.

Recently, research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health has been emerging. Yet, it’s important to note that mood can be influenced by many factors, such as stress, environment, poor sleep, genetics, mood disorders, and nutritional deficiencies.

Therefore, it’s difficult to accurately determine whether food can raise your spirits.

Nonetheless, certain foods have been shown to improve overall brain health and certain types of mood disorders.

Here are 9 healthy foods that may boost your mood.

1. Fatty fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own.

Fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna are rich in two types of omega-3s — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — that are linked to lower levels of depression.

Omega-3s contribute to the fluidity of your brain’s cell membrane and appear to play key roles in brain development and cell signaling.

While research is mixed, one review of clinical trials showed that in some studies, consuming omega-3’s in the form of fish oil lower depression scores.

Although there’s no standard dose, most experts agree that most adults should get at least 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day (9).

Given that a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon provides 2,260 mg of EPA and DHA, eating this fish a few times per week is a great way to get these fats into your diet.

SUMMARY Fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower your risk of depression.

2. Dark chocolate

Chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting compounds.

Its sugar may improve mood since it’s a quick source of fuel for your brain.

Furthermore, it may release a cascade of feel-good compounds, such as caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine — a substance chemically similar to cannabinoids that has been linked to improved mood.

However, some experts debate whether chocolate contains enough of these compounds to trigger a psychological response.

Regardless, it’s high in health-promoting flavonoids, which have been shown to increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health, all of which may support mood regulation.

Finally, chocolate has a high hedonic rating, meaning that its pleasurable taste, texture, and smell may also promote good mood.

Because milk chocolate contains added ingredients like sugar and fat, it’s best to opt for dark chocolate — which is higher in flavonoids and lower in added sugar. You should still stick to 1–2 small squares (of 70% or more cocoa solids) at a time since it’s a high calorie food.

SUMMARY Dark chocolate is rich in compounds that may increase feel-good chemicals in your brain.