Diet and Mood Changes

What you decide to eat can play an important role on your emotional state of mind. Research has revealed that what you eat and when you eat can help to determine how you feel throughout the day.

People consume food for a variety of reasons. While the primary reason we eat is to provide caloric intake and energy for daily activity, sometimes people will eat “comfort” food during times of stress.

Diet and Mood ChangesPeople have also used food as a social medium for thousands of years in many cultures.

Celebrations and other large events are often centered on some type of feast. It’s evident that food can have powerful social aspects, but how can certain nutrients from food we eat affect our mood changes? Let’s have a look.

The Glycemic Index

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the glycemic index is a measurement of the effects that carbohydrates have on blood sugars in the body.

Foods that rate high on this index are typically higher in carbohydrates and simple sugars. A low glycemic index food releases glucose more slowly into your bloodstream.

When blood sugars are high, you will experience increased energy and often elevated mood. Conversely, when blood sugars are low, energy levels usually decline along with a decrease in mood. Foods that cause a stable blood sugar can often help to prevent this unstable shift in moods.

Today, the use of many energy drinks and supplements is on the rise. These drinks and supplements can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.

While this may cause a temporary elevation of mood along with increased energy, too often the feelings are short in duration, and are followed by a decrease in blood sugar. This usually results in a rapid energy decrease and a decline in mood.

Timing of Meals

When you skip a meal, your blood sugar can drop. This often results in feeling lethargic and tired. To avoid this undesirable condition, eat small frequent meals and snacks throughout the day.

Additionally, when you eat meals on an empty stomach, you’re more likely to notice changes in mood.

What to Eat

The ideal food will provide effective nutrients that will give you the necessary caloric intake and at the same time help stabilize your mood. According to Dr. Richard Wurtman of MIT, certain nutrients in foods can affect the neurotransmitters in our brains.

According to Dr. Wurtman’s research, these brain chemicals transmit messages between nerve cells that are responsible for mood and performance. Simple adjustments to the following diet components can have a profound impact on the way you feel throughout the day:


Protein breaks down in our bodies in the form of amino acids. Foods high in protein, such as eggs, meat, fish and milk increase an amino acid known as tyrosine.

According to the Mayo Clinic, tyrosine can increase production of dopamine. This pleasure hormone helps to ease stress and anxiety. Tyrosine also increases norepinephrine. This neurotransmitter helps to keep your mind sharp and alert.

Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Gelenberg conducted research that revealed that norepinephrine can also help to regulate mood changes and control depression.


Foods that are high in protein also contain the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid can increase serotonin levels in the brain. The Mayo Clinic says that serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can have a calming effect and helps to play an active role in sleep.

This explains why you want to crash on the couch after your Thanksgiving feast. Poultry such as turkey are high in tryptophan.

Another possible benefit of tryptophan is that it can help people who are in pain. A Temple University study showed that patients who were suffering from chronic facial pain experienced significant pain relief when treated with tryptophan.

Folic Acid

Foods that are rich in folic acid such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts have been known to help combat depression. According to the University of Minnesota, many people who suffer from depression have low levels of folic acid in the body.

Low levels of folic acid can cause serotonin levels in the brain to drop. Research has indicated that as little as 200 micrograms is enough to spike folic acid levels. This can easily be obtained from just one glass of orange juice.

Problem Foods

Foods that contribute to blood sugar spikes should be minimized or avoided. Limit your intake of sugar, corn syrup and other sugar like substances.

Also avoid excessive intake of foods that are high in fat. Along with the obvious cardiac issues, these foods can cause inflammation in the body and lead to a feeling of sluggishness.