Foods for Your Mood


Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach or “gone with your gut” while making a decision? You’ve probably experienced these reactions and gave them little thought. There’s actually a fascinating reason why this happens!

Most people are well aware of the fact that “we are what we eat.” Good nutrition is vital for the prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancers. But how does that affect our day to day mood? The answer is pretty cool.

To break it down a little bit, understand that:

  • The GI tract = digestive tract; it consists of all the organs from the esophagus to the colon. That means all the food we eat passes through it.

  • Serotonin = the “feel good” neurotransmitter; low-levels are associated with mood disturbances such as anxiety and depression.

Our GI tract is lined with millions of nerve cells and thus referred to as our “second brain” and the “enteric nervous system.” Shockingly, most of our serotonin is located here! In addition, our gut contains trillions of bacteria which play a big role in the way our systems operate.

Studies are now showing that there is a powerful connection between the brain and gut, which means that what we eat has a huge effect on how we feel. Certain foods can help us feel good and others not so great (even if we feel otherwise in the moment).

Here are some types of mood-boosting foods you can lean on for a healthy pick-me-up:

  • Dark Berries 

    • These guys contain powerful antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which help decrease inflammation and improve cognitive function.

      • Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries! You can snack on them as is, use in a smoothie (check out some of my fave recipes) or add into some overnight oats.

  • Omega-3s:

    • Known as the “good” fats, these powerful compounds increase serotonin and dopamine levels. They are also anti-inflammatory and are critical for maintaining the health of cell membranes.

      • Wild caught salmon or tuna is an excellent source. 

      • Don’t eat fish? Chia and flax seeds are also great! These are super easy to throw into a smoothie to get a nice boost in omegas. Walnuts too. You can take a handful on the go as a snack or add into a salad.

  • Dark Leafy Greens

    • High in magnesium, these veggies help improve levels of serotonin. They are also excellent for inflammation and gut health!

      • Kale and spinach are easy add-ins to most smoothies. 

      • Collard greens might look scary, but they’re actually very mild in flavor! You can use them as a wrap for burgers for a healthy twist.

  • Probiotics (last but certainly not least!)

    • We now know that the gut-brain connection is much more complex than we ever thought, so it’s crucial to repopulate the good bacteria.

    • Eating prebiotic rich foods also helps to feed these guys! These fruits or vegetables contain fibers that our bodies can’t digest. However, the healthy bacteria in our gut love them. 

      • Garlic, onions and asparagus are great options! 

    • Fermented foods are also a great addition; they naturally boost the probiotics in your system.

      • Adding sauerkraut to a salad or having Kombucha in the AM are easy ways to make your gut feel good. 

It’s amazing to see the deep connection between our food and our mood - and the science behind it keeps growing! The next time you get those butterflies or that gut feeling, let it serve as a little reminder to pick up some blueberries or snack on some walnuts.

Lana Butner