Chew & swallow to raise your mood and brain energy

Food and mood are so intricately connected that they’ve inspired a new area of brain study: Nutritional psychiatry examines how what we eat impacts how we feel.

Nutritional research shows we can empower ourselves to feel partly — or sometimes entirely — better based on our dietary habits.

 To boost your mood and brain energy levels, put these 35 foods on your grocery list:

Complex carbs


Pumpkin seeds, apples, strawberries, oatmeal and chickpeas help keep your sugar levels and mood stable.

Fluctuations in blood glucose can cause your mood to change rapidly, leaving you irritable, low on energy and feeling downright dreadful.   Due to their higher fiber content, complex carbs pack in more nutrients than simple carbs and take longer to break down.

Lean Protein


 Chicken, eggs, lean beef, salmon , and lentils all provide energy that lasts and keep your blood sugar balanced.

Protein is necessary for healthy energy levels. It takes longer to digest than carbs, keeping your blood sugar balanced and providing lasting energy.

It also affects hormones that control satiety, so when you eat enough of it, you can ward off “hanger.”

Amino acids, are the building blocks of protein, help repair and replenish tissue — and your body needs them to make certain neurotransmitters.

Healthy fats


Olives, tofu, dark chocolate, avocado and sardines reduce inflammation and blood pressure and have Omega 3 fatty acids that are good for your brain, immune system and inflammation

Omega-3 fatty acids are part of cell membranes, particularly in the brain, and eating foods like salmon and sardines has been shown to ease depression and boost mood.

Beyond omega-3s, the unsaturated fats found in foods like avocados, olives and nuts may help keep inflammation at bay and reduce blood pressure, which are important for brain health.



Spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, pomegranates, shellfish affects mood neurotransmitters to keep you calm, and helps you sleep

All these foods contain folate which has an important role in the production of dopamine, impacts other mood-related neurotransmitters, helping you keep calm.

Folate has also been shown to help prevent neural tube defects, support cell growth, cell repair, and regulate sleep patterns (especially as you age).

A deficiency in folate levels has been linked to a number of brain issues, including dementia and depression.



Potatoes, turkey, cashews, kidney beans, and quinoa have iron which helps fight infection and keep healthy brain function

Low iron can cause fatigue and depression. The proteins found in iron also help maintain healthy brain function and development.

Consuming too much or not enough of iron can impact both your innate and adaptive immune functions.

Vitamin C


 Tomatoes, bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, and lemons help you keep an even mood and repair your body

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that assists the body’s ability to make neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, which work to stabilize mood.

Your body needs vitamin C to maintain and repair all tissues, helping wounds and cuts heal. Plus, your adrenal glands require vitamin C to make stress hormones, including cortisol. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol you produce — and the more vitamin C you need.



Tart cherries, pistachios, barley grapes and broccoli all help ease you into a good night’s sleep

Tryptophan, as well as nutrients like calcium and vitamin B6, help you produce melatonin, but you can also get this “sleep hormone” from the foods listed above.

Melatonin doesn’t have a soporific effect. Instead, it shifts you into a state that helps you ease your way toward sleep. Eating foods rich in melatonin before bedtime can help you take full advantage of the natural increase in this hormone that happens in the evening.

Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, is a dietitian, nutritionist, chef and author of “From Burnout to Balance: 60+ Healing Recipes and Simple Strategies to Boost Mood, Immunity, Focus and Sleep.” 

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