Created and curated by the MOBE Guide team
You know that eating right is good for your physical health. But did you know that certain foods may improve your emotional and mental health, too? That’s because the body and mind are connected—and when you take care of one, the other reaps important benefits as well.
Our understanding of the body-mind connection is growing every day. And one place it really comes to life is in the kitchen. Research shows that some foods can boost your mood, improve your sense of well-being, and maybe even help you manage depression and anxiety. Check out the list below to see how common foods can make a big difference.
In addition to being an excellent source of fiber and Vitamin C, apples also contain a natural chemical that can increase mood-boosting hormones in your brain.1
It’s packed with brain-protecting Omega-3 fatty acids. Not getting enough Omega-3s is linked to depression and impulsivity.2 In fact, extra Omega-3s may even increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy.
3. Garlic and onions
They don’t just offer a wallop of flavor. They also promote a healthy gut, which can regulate mood. Instead of using powdered versions, chop or mince the real thing to get the most benefits.3, 4
4. Green tea
Caffeine is a well-known mood booster. But green tea also includes a natural chemical that supports relaxation and calm while taking the edge off the jittery caffeine effect.
5. Old-fashioned oats
When you eat lots of fiber such as whole grains and vegetables, your body produces by-products that help to reduce inflammation—and the risk of anxiety and depression.5
There’s a healthful double whammy with this fermented food—as long as you avoid the sugar-sweetened versions. Live cultures of helpful bacteria support a healthy gut-brain connection. Plus, the vitamin D in yogurt can prevent inflammation.6
More research is needed, but fermented foods like this spicy pickled cabbage seem to support a healthy gut, which can reduce behaviors associated with anxiety and depression.7, 8
Also known as garbanzo beans, these are a great protein source for people looking for the brain-boosting benefits of a plant-based diet.9 They also provide B vitamins, which support brain cell function.
If you’re looking for cell-supporting antioxidants, these tasty berries are one of the richest sources. Plus, a bowlful tastes like dessert, which may help curb your sugar cravings.
10. Leafy greens
Leafy greens are an excellent source of tryptophan, which helps the brain produce chemicals that influence feelings of happiness and well-being.10
Chocolate has long been associated with happiness and love—and for good reason. It may have properties that improve mood and reduce tension.11 But remember, the key is to choose real chocolate (dark is best) and enjoy it in moderation.
Explore even more healthy eating ideas by talking with a MOBE Guide. Get started today.
1. Bonnie A. White, et al., “Many Apples a Day Keep the Blues Away: Daily Experience of Negative and Positive Affect and Food Consumption in Young Adults,” British Journal of Health Psychology 18, no 4 (2013): 782-798, https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjhp.12021.
2. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Mood Disorders,” David Mischoulon, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414.
3. Johura Ansary, et al., “Potential Health Benefits of Garlic Based on Human Intervention Studies: A Brief Overview,” Antioxidants (Basel) 9, no. 7 (2020): 619, https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9070619.
4. Aydin Tabrizi, et al., “Prebiotics, as Promising Functional Food to Patients with Psychological Disorders: A Review on Mood Disorders, Sleep, and Cognition,” NeuroQuantology 17, no. 6 (2019): 1-9, doi: 10.14704/nq.2019.17.06.2189
5. Andrew Taylor and Hannah Holscher, “A Review of Dietary and Microbial Connections to Depression, Anxiety, and Stress,” Nutritional Neuroscience 23, no. 3 (2020): 237-250, https://doi.org/10.1080/1028415X.2018.1493808.
6. “Probiotics May Help Boost Mood and Cognitive Function,” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/probiotics-may-help-boost-mood-and-cognitive-function.
7. “The Brain-Gut Connection,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-brain-gut-connection.
8. Uma Naidoo, “Gut Feelings: How Food Affects Your Mood,” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gut-feelings-how-food-affects-your-mood-2018120715548.
9. Maura E. Walker, et al., “Associations of the Mediterranean-Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay Diet with Cardiac Remodeling in the Community: the Framingham Heart Study,” British Journal of Nutrition 126, no. 12 (2021): 1888-1896, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114521000660.
10. “Food and Mood: Eating Plants to Fight the Blues,” Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/food-and-mood.
11. “Dark Chocolate: Does It Have Benefits?” Nutrition Advance, https://www.nutritionadvance.com/dark-chocolate-health-benefits/.