Hippocrates, known as the founder of Western medicine, once famously said: “Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” 

This rings true perhaps more now than it ever has. Food is so important and complex that at times it seems as though our whole world revolves around it. It’s not just nutrition for our bodies – it’s celebrating a new job, it’s Saturday night family dinners, it’s frustration when we want to achieve a healthy weight, it’s that tantalizing cheeseburger advertisement. It’s joy and it’s sorrow, it’s temptation and it’s comfort. 

Food is also our health – in addition to providing nutrition and energy for our bodies! Recent research has shown that our food can actually impact our mental health! This new revelation means that whatever we eat can majorly influence how we feel, not just in the short-term as we’re enjoying the delicacies spoiling our taste buds, but also in the long term.

Let’s take a look at the reasoning behind it and unlock new ways to boost our mood through our food!

How Food Can be the Ultimate Gateway to Mental Bliss

It goes without saying that navigating our mental health properly not only contributes to emotional wellbeing, but could also help support our health in other ways; reduced risk of chronic pain and physical health conditions, improved productivity and attention span, heightened chances to resort to healthy coping mechanisms, and even experiencing healthier relationships.

Balanced nutrition positively supports crucial factors in our brain, such as our emotions, memory capacity, and cognition. One of the main reasons for this is due to the interactions between the chemical components of food and the neurotransmitters in our brains. Some foods affect the neurotransmitters positively, while others negatively.

For example, foods rich in tryptophan can support the production of serotonin (also known as the happiness hormone), which in turn contribute to experiencing feelings of happiness and relaxation. Likewise, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids stimulate the release of dopamine, a brain hormone that is known for its promotion of feelings of pleasure and reward. On the other hand, foods containing refined sugar as well as highly processed foods can cause blood sugar spikes, disruption in the flow of the neurotransmitters, which contribute to feeling fatigued and irritable.

Mediterranean diets are one of many excellent examples that represent a balanced approach to nutrition. This is because they includes a large amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, legumes, and whole grains. All of these are praised for their “protective effects” against not just physical wellbeing, but in helping to reduce risks of mental health complications.

Singing the Songs of a Holistic Diet

More and more, doctors and therapists today are adopting a holistic approach to developing mental health care and effective treatment plans. Following the latest research, strategies on which foods to eat and which to limit their consumption are being added to supplement people’s mental health care plans.

And – if we’re at risk of developing a mental health disorder – following a nutritional plan can actually be preventive against mental health issues. By changing our diet, we have a greater chance of maintaining a healthy mental state and warding off mental illness.

Since there was little previous focus on the prevention of depression and anxiety before now, this new method is particularly notable: by changing your diet, you have a greater chance of maintaining a healthy mental state and warding off mental illness.

Perhaps the most exciting research completed in the area of examining food’s impact on mental health was conducted by MooDFOOD: a consortium of 13 organizations in 9 European countries that analyzed expert knowledge “in nutrition, preventive psychology, consumer behavior, and psychiatry to investigate the potential of food in the prevention of depression.” This five-year research project resulted in fascinating discoveries about foods’ impact on our mental health: eating the correct nutrient-dense foods can does indeed help prevent depression. 

MooDFOOD’s team went above and beyond to provide a booklet on tips for how we can eat to support our mental health. They even prepared an additional practitioner’s guide which we could bring to our healthcare providers when discussing diet changes to supplement our treatment plans. With that said…

Let’s dive into some of those foods to start improving our moods!

Fatty Fish

This category includes salmon, tuna, and mackerel. They have a high concentration of vitamin D, which has been recently proven to positively impact mood. In fact, a study was conducted on 40 participants living with depression, and they were randomly assigned to take doses of vitamin D. After eight weeks of vitamin D treatment, the depression scores improved in patients.

If you’re relying on supplements to get your intake, talk to your doctor about the correct dosage for you because excessive consumption can be harmful.

Fruits and Vegetables

We all know that they’re healthy and essential for our physical health. But who knew that they could also impact our mental health! Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and have a positive impact on the brain’s serotonergic status which boosts our mood and inspires feelings of happiness. Although they may not cure depression, consuming fruits and vegetables have been can play a significant role in preventing it and reducing its symptoms.



Dark chocolate in particular has been proven to have a mood-elevating impact, especially in terms of reducing anxiety and depression symptoms. Participants in a study analyzing the effects of chocolate on positive moods were given the option of eating a small portion of chocolate or a cracker, both mindfully (engaging their full senses and bringing awareness to their thoughts and feelings as they eat it) and non-mindfully. Results showed that not only did chocolate eating participants record a higher positive mood than their counterparts who ate crackers, they also noticed that those who were instructed to eat chocolate mindfully experienced a mood boost more than those who were instructed to eat chocolate non-mindfully.

Chicken & Eggs

They are known to provide a wide range of amino acids, including tryptophan. What is tryptophan, you may ask? Well, it is an essential amino acid (one that our bodies can’t produce on its own, so we need an external source for it) found in many protein-based foods that play a significant role in increasing brain serotonin that acts as an antidepressant. 


Likewise chicken and eggs, nuts are also high in tryptophan, which means an extra source of happiness!

Guys, this is for you! Walnuts contain Vitamin E, folate, melatonin, many antioxidative polyphenols, and large concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. Research was performed on sixty-four college students to examine the mood effects of walnuts on young males and females. They were randomly assigned to one of two therapy sequences.  Results showed that walnuts seem to boost mood in young males who aren’t experiencing depressive symptoms.

Consuming healthy foods isn’t just about achieving a healthy weight for our bodies; it’s a brain booster too! Aside from its nourishing ability to stimulate brain hormones’ production, it can also optimize our thought processes, our energy levels, and restore a disrupted flow to manifest harmony and balance. The best part about eating healthily is that it doesn’t require us to follow a strict diet; ideally we’d have a conversation with our nutritionist to discuss our goals, needs, and resources. And who better than a Holisticly practitioner to help you get there?

Book your session with a Holisticly Nutritionist today and see how you can create the perfect diet to improve your mood!