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Bad Mood Got You Down? The Right Food Can Help

Baskets of Fruit & VegatablesWe all have days when we're in a crummy mood. Nothing seems to be going right and a big black thunderhead follows us through our day. Our health feels off. We snap at the kids or the spouse, tap our foot impatiently in the checkout line, and feel doomy, gloomy, and all-around icky.


You may be tempted to self-medicate your bad mood with a mountain of chocolate or a glass (or three) of wine, but a better solution is to reach into your cupboard or fridge for some relief. But this is not good for your health. A large body of research shows that the food you put in your body is directly linked to your mood, and certain foods can alter your brain chemistry for feelings of calm, well-being, and satisfaction.


Here are six general health tips for using food to shift your mood from murderous to magnificent.


  1. Eat a low-fat, low-protein, high-carb (right-carb) snack. High-carbohydrate food that doesn't contain a lot of fat or protein promotes the release of the amino acid tryptophan, which turns into serotonin, a brain chemical that lightens your mood and helps reduce cravings for chocolate. Tryptophan also helps with pain relief and can help you get quality sleep. But fat and protein suppress serotonin, so keep the snack low in those nutrients. Try a “right-carb” snack like a cup of berries, a bowl of oatmeal or a bowl of air-popped popcorn and know that while packaged crackers and cookies may be high-carb, they are NOT right-carb!


  1. Have a cuppa. While too much caffeine isn't good for your mind or body, a cup of coffee, green tea, or black tea when you're feeling sluggish and down can help you perk right back up. Caffeine revs up your nervous system to make you feel more alert and improve your concentration.


  1. Get some omega-3.Fish Ready to be Cooked Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish like sardines, tuna, and salmon, are known to help improve your mood and fight against depression--in some cases, better than medication. Omega-3 is essential for brain health. It increases attention while reducing feelings of aggression and it helps control your mood. If you don't "do" fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement.


  1. Reach for an avocado. Avocados are a proven brain food, shown through research to help balance hormone production. Eating half an avocado provides your body--and your brain--with a hefty dose of ultra-healthy fat to help you maintain an even keel.


  1. Gobble some grapes. Grapes are absolutely brimming with antioxidants--particularly those known as flavonoids--which are shown to help improve your mood. A handful of grapes every day supplies your body with these nutrients that help keep your brain and body healthy and your spirits high.


  1. Get some vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 affects the production of neurotransmitters like the feel-good chemical serotonin, which boosts your mood and improves your sense of well-being. Vitamin B6 is crucial for healthy psychological function and has been shown to improve mood disorders like depression. Foods high in vitamin B6 include shiitake mushrooms, bananas, wild-caught tuna, grass-fed beef, and spinach.

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