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Good Mood Food: Eat This to Feel Great 

8 min read
a young woman is singing in the kitchen with much produce in front of her_ good mood food
Sarah Jackson Damuth post Reviewer Sarah Jackson Damuth post Reviewer
MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified LEAP Therapist

Is good mood food real? Definitely, yes! Learn about foods that have mood-boosting effects and how they work!

Table of Contents

Did you know there are certain foods that make you happy? Such foods have been studied for their positive impact on mental health and happiness. 

In this article, we will cover some of these mood-boosting foods, how they work, and how to best incorporate them into your diet.

How Mood-Boosting Foods Work

There are quite a few compounds, micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids in foods that have been shown to improve mood, including the following: 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Folate or folic acid 
  • Caffeine
  • Probiotics
  • Pyridoxine or vitamin B6
  • Vitamin D
  • Iron 
  • Fiber
  • Tryptophan
  • And more!

We know that many different nutrients can boost your mood in various ways. However, researchers are still examining how these foods affect brain neurochemicals, thus improving mood. 

10 Foods That Improve Mood

Now that we have gone through the main food components that can aid in emotional health and ward off depressive symptoms, let’s dive into ten foods that can lift your mood. Read on! 

a list of foods with mood boosting effects, chocolate, coffee, berries, beans, chicken, eggs_good mood food

Tuna and Salmon

Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, have the potential to increase happiness because they contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)

Unsaturated fat is a healthy fat with many protective benefits for heart health, brain function, and much more. It is typically found in plant sources, such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds, but it also is present in fatty fish. 

According to research, omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the healthy functioning of the nervous system and may be a promising treatment for depression due to its adjusting of serotonin capacity and its effect on proinflammatory cytokines and the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). [1]

However, the exact mechanism behind this improvement in mood is still being studied. [2] 

In general, incorporating fatty fish such as tuna or salmon into your diet more than 2 times per week can help decrease depressive symptoms. [3]


Not only are they versatile, nutritious, and delicious, beans are also considered a good mood food because of their folate content. Alternative therapies in health and medicine discuss how folate is crucial for the normal production of neurotransmitters in the brain, which impact our mood. [4]

Additionally, folate deficiency in the diet is typically associated with depression. Therefore, high folate foods such as beans may improve your mood and protect against depression.

Other foods that are high in folate include animal liver, spinach, fortified breakfast cereals, Brussels sprouts, and more! [5]

Dark Chocolate

You may not be surprised to hear that dark chocolate is also a great food that improves your mood. But what if there’s more to it than just the delicious taste? 

Many chemical components of chocolate can boost your mood. These compounds include flavanols and methylxanthines. More research is being done on the impact of these compounds on mood, but the results are promising and show that chocolate has a mood-enhancing effect. [6]

Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is the best option because it is higher in antioxidants and lower in refined sugar. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells in the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are naturally produced in the body and can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. 

The journal Antioxidants emphasizes how they have been linked to a lower risk of depression or depressive symptoms. This may be due to the link between oxidative stress and depression. [7]

All the more reason to have a small piece of chocolate now and then!

Yogurt and Kefir

Yogurt and kefir are rich in probiotics, which are good bacteria for gut health. The gut, which includes the gastrointestinal tract, harbors a large community of good and bad bacteria called the gut microbiome or microbiota. Symbiosis in the gut microbiome (which is when there is a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria) is associated with better health and lower rates of chronic diseases. 

However, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, called dysbiosis, has been linked to depression and other psychiatric disorders. [8]

To promote a healthy gut microbiome, it is important to include probiotic foods in your diet, such as yogurt and kefir. Other sources of probiotics include kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods. Yogurt also naturally contains vitamin D, a vitamin that has been linked to improving depression. [9]

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Nuts and Seeds

Whether you choose pistachios, almonds, sunflower seeds, or others, nuts and seeds of any variety are also great mood-boosting foods. In fact, researchers have found that a higher level of nut consumption is linked to lower rates of depression. [10]

An additional study analyzed whether the Mediterranean diet, which includes nuts and seeds, is associated with a decreased risk of depression. After analyzing the over 15,000 adults who participated, the Mediterranean diet is now associated with lowered risk of depression. [11]

Other components of the Mediterranean diet include olive oil as the primary fat source and lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and poultry. 

So, include a handful of nuts or seeds in your diet daily as a snack or pair it with a meal to help boost your mood!


Oatmeal is one of those quintessential breakfast foods that can be paired with fruit, granola, nuts, seeds, and many other delicious toppings. 

In a study published in the journal Nutrition and Health, over 300 participants were surveyed to determine the relationship between breakfast consumption and their mood in the middle of the morning. As a result of the study, skipping breakfast was associated with poor mood and increased depression scores. [12]

Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast option because it is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and is very filling to keep you energized all day long. 

Additionally, oatmeal is rich in the essential mineral iron, which plays a crucial role in the health of your red blood cells, which carry oxygen to cells throughout the body. According to the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, iron is important for emotional health and mood stability. [13]


Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which are beneficial for mood, as mentioned above. 

Additionally, in a study performed on children and young adults, the consumption of flavonoids in blueberries was associated with a positive effect on mood. [14]

Therefore, it would be a good idea to add a handful of blueberries to your smoothie, yogurt, or oatmeal, or simply enjoy it as a snack with a side of nuts! 


Eggs are a nutrient-rich protein source that are very versatile as they can be prepared in various ways. In addition to that, eggs contain many micronutrients that have the potential to boost your mood, including selenium and zinc. 

There is strong evidence to support a positive relationship between zinc consumption and decreased depressive symptoms. Therefore, adding eggs to your diet can be a great way to potentially boost your mood! [15]

Chicken and Turkey

Have you heard that your Thanksgiving turkey might make you sleepy? That is because poultry such as chicken and turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which can in fact promote sleepiness, but it is also linked to positively impacting one’s mood!  

Tryptophan is associated with a positive effect on mood and cognition. The researchers of this study postulate that this benefit to mood results from tryptophan’s role in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. [16]


Do you love that hot cup of coffee in the morning? Well, according to the journal Nutrients, you may be happy to hear that enjoying your java may also benefit your mood. [17]

While this is frequently attributed to the caffeine content, more research is needed to examine the effect of coffee consumption on mood and the mechanism behind it. 

Final Words

Let’s wrap up some key takeaways about mood-boosting foods. 

  • There are many foods that can potentially improve your mood due to the micronutrients or compounds they contain, including antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Micronutrients that can benefit mood include folate, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B6.
  • Some mood-boosting foods include fatty fish, nuts, berries, poultry, high-fiber foods, and chocolate. 
  • Consuming these foods regularly as part of a balanced and healthy diet may improve your mood.
  • It is important to note that if you have persistent feelings of sadness, you should reach out to a health professional, such as a clinical therapist, social worker, or psychologist. 

Do you still have questions about these mood-boosting nutrients? Whether or not you are looking to lose weight or manage a health condition, speaking with a registered dietitian may answer your questions and help you incorporate more nutritious foods into your diet. There are many not-so-obvious questions to ask a dietitian, so don’t be afraid to just ask!

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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