Food & Drink

Eat or Avoid: Foods to Lift Your Moods

Image credit: Rachel Park
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It should come as no surprise that our rainbow of emotions can be largely affected by what we eat. Scientifically, we have the facts, yet the majority of us only refer to them when a problem arises. Like when we feel sad, or stressed, or sleepy, and we need to feel the opposite. Why is it we don’t plan our meals around how we feel or need to feel, more? Well, we took a look at some food items that can turn your next frown upside down. Check out the list below for a general idea on what foods to eat or avoid to lift your moods.


Image credit: Charles Deluvio

Many factors are involved when it comes to being sad or depressed, and one that’s often overlooked is what we’re eating. It is normal to reach for foods that are sweet, salty, and fatty when feeling a little blue. However, we can short-circuit the junk food cravings and instead enjoy higher energy levels and sharper mental focus by eating better foods. These include lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish. Turkey has relatively higher levels of a chemical called Tryptophan, which stimulates serotonin production – the natural feel-good chemical of the body.

Eat: Lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish.

Avoid: Junk food like candy, salted potato chips, fried foods, etc.


Image credit: Aarón Blanco Tejedor

We all know that feeling (count yourself lucky if you don’t!) when the heart starts beating faster, neck stiffens, and you go on a fight-or-flight mode. Whether it is from work, relationships, money, or worries about the future, everybody experiences some form or the other. There are many ways to combat stress including exercising and practicing mindfulness, but we’re looking at the food intake perspective. Stress management expert and author of ‘Addicted to Stress’, Debbie Mandel said, “Complex carbohydrates are wonderful foods to improve mood quickly…They help the body release serotonin.” Meanwhile, according to Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist and author of ‘Vigor: 7 Days to Unlimited Energy, Focus, and Well-Being’, “Low-fat dairy contains calcium, vitamin D, and peptides (proteins) that induce a sense of well-being and relaxation.”

Eat: Low-fat dairy, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta, etc.

Avoid: Sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, processed carbohydrates.


Image credit: Paweł Adamczak

The night before, you plan to have an early morning workout before heading to the office. But then when 8am rolls around and your alarm goes off, exercising is the last thing you want to do, because you just feel so mysteriously sleepy. Again, what you eat has an effect on this, and there are foods that can help combat the snoozy feelings. Try having foods that have a low glycemic index so energy is released slowly, and you stay full for longer. Even something as simple as drinking water first thing in the morning can help, as mild dehydration can make you feel sluggish.

Eat: Chia seeds, oatmeal, green apples instead of coffee, drink water.

Avoid: Milk which produces melatonin (the sleep hormone), refined carbohydrates like pasta, bananas, red meat, salmon, and more.


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