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Mood Food

We have long known that your food choice affects your health but what about your mood? Most people will admit that a little dose of chocolate will help those Monday blues, but short of becoming a chocoholic what other food options do we have to boost mood? Studies show that our food choices affect mood and the type of food(s) that improve mood depends somewhat on age. In a recent study, better mood in adults (30 years and older) was associated with greater intake of antioxidants. That means fruits and veggies but also dark chocolate and tea!  At the same time, foods with high glycemic index – these include highly processed and/or foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates- had a negative effect on mood. The more of these foods people ate, the worse mood they experienced.  Excessive coffee and poor eating habits such as skipping breakfast also resulted in poor mood.

In younger adults (age 18-29) a reduced intake of “meat” which included poultry in addition to other sources of meat and behaviors such as exercises less than 3 times per week was related to poor mood.


In another study, people who consumed 7 servings (ie cups) of fruits and vegetables daily experienced a greater sense of wellbeing as compared to those who consumed less. A good way to ensure you hit that target is to make half your plate-regardless of meal-consist of fruits and veggies or to incorporate a salad or veggie smoothie before/with meals. This will also reduce your overall food consumption and more often result in weight loss.


Finally foods high in tryptophan- an amino acid used in the biosynthesis of proteins AND a precursor to the happy drug serotonin has been shown to enhance mood. Dietary sources of tryptophan include meats and fish, eggs, spirulina, chickpeas and sunflower seeds.


Now that you have your mood food down, here are some other lifestyle changes that lead to enhanced mood.


  1. Exercise- this is a big one! We all know that exercise causes the release of happy making endorphins. Regular exercise is associated with reduced depression and anxiety, has been shown to enhance productivity in the workplace and improved cognition that is measured in things like better test scores. If you are not an exerciser consider getting a pedometer and walking 10K steps/day or committing to a 30 minute daily walk.
  2. Sleep- this is literally the time that our bodies can rest, recover and recoup. Many metabolic functions are reserved for sleeptime and sleep deprivation results in diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Limiting sleep also results in impaired mood including irritability, depression and anxiety. The goal is 7 or more hours per night preferably 8 hours. Sleep should also be uninterrupted so limit caffeine, screens alcohol and other factors that may disrupt sleep.
  3. Supplements- as the name states supplements should “supplement” other good habits. Studies show that b vitamins, omegas and possibly even probiotics help modulate mood.



  1. Get in your antioxidants- fruits, veggies, teas, chocolate (in moderation)
  2. Strive for 7 servings (cups) of fruits and veggies per day
  3. Eat lean proteins – at least 3 per week
  4. Limit high glycemic index foods
  5. Don’t skip breakfast
  6. Stive for 30 minutes of activity daily
  7. Shoot of 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  8. Consider supplementing diet with B vitamins, omega and probiotics
Dr. Adrienne Youdim

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