The Connection between Your Food and Your Mood

Hiba Nauman May 05 2015

“My fantasy is to have a restaurant where there are no written menus, but where you just ask people, what are you in the mood for? Fish? Meat? White wine?’“ –Charlie Trotter.

The social media is nowadays flooded with people openly declaring their love for food. Not that it was ever a secret, but as everyone now has a platform, they don’t hold back any feelings they need to show towards food. You often read things like, “I’d rather have food than a relationship”.

So does food really make us happy?

According to a research in July 2008 by Fernando Gomez: The areas in the brain that are associated with control of feeding are intimately related to the areas that process emotions, reward and cognition.

When we eat unhealthy food or don’t eat enough, our mood becomes negative and notorious. However when we eat good healthy food that is appetizing, it makes us happy and more positive.


Serotonin is a hormone found in the Gastro Intestinal Tract. This hormone regulates the movement of muscles of the digestive system. Although most of the serotonin is found in our gut, some of it is found in the central nervous system, its function in the brains is: Regulating mood, appetite and sleep.

When serotonin levels are low, we’re more depressed, and when they’re high, we’re happier. Many depression drugs target the serotonin system by attempting to artificially boost serotonin levels or sensitivity. Even drugs such as Ecstasy, LSD and MDMA artificially increase the body serotonin level.

People who diet and eat less, tend to become depressed about two weeks into a diet, about the time their serotonin levels have dropped due to decreased carbohydrate intake. As experimented on rats, cutting down calories resulted in lower levels of tryptophan, which caused the amount of serotonin to lower, and even decrease in the number of serotonin receptors in the brain. This means they’re less responsive to the serotonin they have.

The Vampire Diaries star, Nina Dobrev says: “Starving to be skinny isn’t my thing. When I don’t eat, it affects my mood! On-set, I fuel up with small meals and I’m always grabbing high-protein snacks, like almonds. Chai lattes with espresso also keep me going.”

Julia Ross, MA, is director of the Recovery Systems Clinic in San Francisco and author of The Mood Cure and the Diet Cure suggests, Eat wisely. This means, pushing away the leftover cake and eating sensible carbs to stimulate serotonin.

So even if you are trying to lose weight, it is important to have a cheat day once a week to give you the required carbs to elevate serotonin level, e.g. brown rice, bread, etc.

Omega 3 Fatty- Acids

There is a lot of hype regarding the side effects caused by anti-depressants. However the famous natural cod liver oil doesn’t have side effects, and also helps fight depression. The same researches by Fernando Gomez in 2008 also pointed out that lack of Omega 3 fatty acids cause not only learning and cognitive impairment, but also depression. Walnuts, fish and flaxseed are good sources of omega 3 fatty acid.

Another study, held in Norway proved that nearly 22,000 participants revealed that those who regularly took cod liver oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, were about 30% less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not. The longer the participants took cod liver oil, the less likely they were to have high levels of depression

“The [evidence] is becoming quite compelling that increasing omega-3 fatty intake enhances many aspects of brain function, including the control of mood and aspects of personality,” Brian M. Ross, MD, Northern Ontario School of Medicine of Lakehead University.


Proteins not only make our muscles and physical structure, but also the hormones and neurotransmitters. Protein consists of amino acids, the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps stabilize blood sugar, which can interfere with concentration and mood when elevated (hyperglycemia). These proteins include, eggs, yogurt, whole grains.


Taking good vitamin and mineral supplements decrease the amount of depression.  Especially the following ones:

  • B1 (thiamin): Peanuts, legumes, cereals, rice
  • B2 (riboflavin): Milk, cheese, green vegetables
  • B6 (pyridoxine): Meats, potatoes.
  • Folate: Spinach, turnip, broccoli.
  • B12 (methylcobalamin): Eggs, milk, poultry, soy.
  • Vitamin D3: Salmon, tuna, eggs.
  • Minerals like magnesium, selenium, and zinc are linked to mood changes.

Having an overall healthy lifestyle and attitude will benefit you not only physically but also mentally. You can never be happy if you fill yourself with unhealthy food and live an unhealthy life. Working out, staying active, eat well and surrounding yourself with people who make you happy will benefit you more than you can imagine. Do this for yourself and your family.

Hiba Nauman

Hiba Nauman:

'Hiba is a dental student with a flair for writing. She takes caffeine very seriously, and loves experimenting with art. She strives to be a dental surgeon someday who not only performs surgeries but also spreads health awareness and free smiles.