How Food Can Improve Your Mood, Even If You’re Super Stressed

Irena Geller

Weight Loss Expert

Jan 04, 2023

It’s beginning to taste a lot like a new year, the season of plenty – plenty of stress and food.

The pressure of shopping and the expectations of the season can make the Christmas and New Year break an extremely stressful time. It’s easy to get caught up with mindless eating and stress eating as the pace picks up during the holidays.

When stressed, many of us turn to food to comfort our feelings, consuming high-sugar, high-calorie snacks, but these also come with their own set of issues. They can really dampen your mood.

Although indulging in a sweet snack may make you feel better in the moment, it could actually worsen your mood in the long run.

What you feed your body, you also feed your brain — sometimes to its detriment.

Does food affect you mentally?

The link between diet and mental health has been the subject of increasing study just lately with a growing body of research pointing to some surprising links between diet and mood.

Yes, your eating habits play a big role in determining your disease risks. But did you know that they also have a huge effect on your state of mind?

  Here’s a secret: what you eat has an effect on your state of mind, energy level, memory, and general happiness.

Stop for a moment and think about how you felt after your last meal.

If you’re like most people, you may have felt drowsy and foggy-headed after lunch. However, when you’re actually hungry and your blood sugar is low, your brain’s more primitive regions take over, making you more likely to lose patience, become agitated, and become angry.

Diet impacts men and women differently

Your diet may be making you unhappy — especially if you’re a woman.

According to recent studies, the effects of diet on women’s mental health and happiness may be more significant than those on men’s.

The medical community is beginning to recognize just how potent the connection between diet and mental health can be, but new reports suggest that doctors and mental health professionals may want to start advising women about this connection even more so than men.

Mood-altering effects of food.

Every food contains minerals, vitamins, and amino acids that permeate our entire body, and which can affect our mood. 

Your mood may be positively or negatively impacted by your food and gut health.

90% of serotonin receptors are found in the gut, which is significant when thinking about the relationship between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. It makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system not only aid in food digestion but also control your emotions because your gastrointestinal tract is lined with 100 million nerve cells, or neurones.

 The Vagus nerve serves as a two-way anatomical and physiological conduit between the gut and the brain. Greater insight into the relationship between nutrition and illness, including depression and anxiety, is provided by the gut-brain axis.

The balance between the good and bad bacteria is disrupted when you eat foods that contain chemical additives and ultra-processed foods, this has an effect on your gut environment and increases your risk of diseases. 

Foods that affect your mood 

Some foods can negatively impact your emotional health and put you in a low mood.

Sugary Foods.

When you eat sugar, your body quickly releases glucose, giving you a temporary boost of energy followed by a crash. When blood sugar levels fluctuate, as they do when someone consumes too much sugar, it can lead to negative emotions and physical symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and depression.


Red wine may be touted as a healthful “superfood” or “super beverage,” but alcohol, in any amount, is harmful to human health. 

  • Alcohol can make you feel down, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that (during or after drinking). 
  • Alcoholism is associated with the development of mood disorders like anxiety and depression, and alcohol is a depressant (despite the initial uplifting feeling you may get). 

In addition, the consumption of alcoholic beverages has been linked to increased cravings for sugary and fatty foods, both of which have been shown to contribute to negative emotional states.

 High-Fat Foods. 

Trans fat consumption has been linked to increased risk of depression. Other studies have found that high levels of saturated fat and refined sugar in the diet are associated with brain inflammation. 

Trans fats and saturated fats, both of which are prevalent in fried foods, snacks, and fast food, are the focus of these studies. The monounsaturated fats found in avocados and olives, for example, have been linked to improved mood.

Everyone responds to foods differently.

It’s important to remember that everyone responds to foods differently, even people in the same family. 

To improve your MOOD, identify foods that don’t agree with you physically or mentally.

  • Maybe your friend can eat ice cream every night without repercussions, you might find that eating makes you feel sluggish.
  • The key is to identify what types of foods make you feel your best and support high energy levels, productivity, focus, and happiness. 

Restriction is never the answer when trying to make a healthy diet change.You should make dietary changes because you want to be a healthier and happier person.

Are you curious about how to take care of your mood and emotions? 

As might be expected, the biochemical foundation for better mood management and emotional resilience is laid by the same general dietary habits recommended for good general health, and heart health in particular.

Here Are Some Steps That You Can Take to Boost Your Brain Health. 

Step 1: The best nutrients for your brain 

  • omega-3 fatty acids: fish, nuts, seeds, algae oil
  • omega-6 fatty acids: Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, pistachios
  • B vitamins: meat, eggs, seafood, green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains 
  • Vitamin D: Sunshine and a few foods like cheese and egg yolks
  • selenium: cod, Brazil nuts, walnuts, poultry
  • tryptophan: turkey, beef, eggs, dark leafy greens

Step 2: Fermented foods.

The good bacteria in fermented foods directly influences our mood and emotions. Heaps of research links gut health to mental health, and the probiotics and prebiotics in fermented foods actively affect the environment of our tummies.

  • Eating more of them can help boost brain health and mood
  • Include: Fermented foods like unsweetened yoghurts, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut.

Step 3: What to limit or avoid in your diet

Although the foods listed above can have a positive effect on your mental health, there are also foods that can have the opposite effect.

A. Food to avoid include

  • Sugar – The sugar added to pastries and sweets is highly addictive, and does the opposite to what complex carbohydrates do. Cutting back on sugary foods and drinks can be a great step towards feeling better.
  • Alcohol – drinking lots of alcohol can have a negative effect on mental health. Alcohol can interrupt sleep patterns, and affect your ability to focus. Cutting back my help you feel better in the long run
  • Saturated fats – this is the oily stuff you expect from takeaway foods and processed meals. These bad fats can decrease brain function and make it harder to focus and remember things.

B. Limit Your Carbohydrate intake

There has been a worldwide increase in the consumption of sugars, snack foods, take-out foods, and high-energy foods throughout the 20th century. 

Consuming an excessive amount of carbohydrates can affect your cognitive ability and slows down weight loss.

Here are some healthy tips:

  • Replace your refined carbohydrates with whole grains 
  • Avoid excessive amounts of bread and swap white bread for whole-grain bread
  • Swap sugary cereals for oatmeal or millet
  • Trade rice for quinoa 

What does this mean for you?

Eating for optimum brain health is one side of the coin, the other side is building a healthy mindset by learning to manage stress and emotion

This requires a dedicated approach to understanding the things that trip you up, and some repetition of a better, healthier behaviour.

Most people struggle to do this on their own, and working with a professional coach can be an effective strategy to take control.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please write a comment below.


By Irena Geller

Weight Loss Expert

Irena Geller is a Food & Mood Coach and author in the Health & Weight loss industry who helps busy women to put down their fork and pick up their life. She uses 3 proven key steps, helping busy women to eat well consistently, lose weight effortlessly, potentially adding years to their life so they can live those years to the fullest, looking amazing and feeling confident! You can contact Irena here:



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