Can Your Diet Impact Your Mood?


If you’re struggling with a mood disorder, you’re not alone. At least one in five American adults has a diagnosed behavioral health condition, and many more may suffer without an official diagnosis. 

At Prima Medicine in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our experienced care team offers compassionate guidance on many mental health issues, ensuring you get the support and care you need to feel better. Many of our patients wonder about the link between lifestyle factors — such as diet — and their mood. 

While diet alone isn’t responsible for the development of a mental health disorder, the foods you eat — or don’t eat — can play a role in your mood. Keep reading to learn more about the link between diet and mood.     

What is a mood disorder?

Simply put, a mood disorder is a type of mental health disease that impacts your emotional state and well-being. Generally speaking, mood disorders may cause you to experience prolonged periods of sadness, elation, or a combination of both. 

While everyone’s mood changes depending on their situation or circumstances, mood disorders cause these changes to last for weeks or months. They may make it difficult to carry out your normal activities at work or home, and they may negatively impact your relationships. 

There are many types of mood disorders, but three of the most common are depression (major depressive disorder), bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

Is there a link between diet and mood?

Simply put, yes. Multiple studies indicate that what you eat impacts your brain function and mood. In addition, more and more research suggests that your mood is directly affected by the bacteria in your gut.

This makes sense when you consider that your brain and body need energy or fuel to carry out essential functions, and that fuel comes from the foods you eat. Whether you feed your body high-quality fuel or low-grade fuel can make all the difference in your body, brain, and mood. 

When you eat foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, your brain gets what it needs to function well and stay healthy. However, if you choose to eat low-grade fuel by eating a diet high in processed foods, refined sugars, and flour, your brain may not get what it needs to function its best. 

These same foods can cause inflammation, which can impact your brain health and potentially even your mood. On the other hand, eating low-fat, whole, plant-based foods, can help reduce inflammation and therefore improve your mood.  

Which foods can negatively impact mood?

According to studies, people with a poor-quality diet are more likely to report symptoms of mood disorders. Low-quality diets are typically high in processed meat, refined sugars and sweets, fried food, refined grains, and high-fat dairy foods and beverages.

If you’re worried about your mood or have a diagnosed mood disorder, it’s best to avoid these types of foods and drinks, especially:

  • High-sugar foods and beverages
  • White breads, pastas, and rice
  • Foods and drinks with high-fructose corn syrup
  • Alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Processed foods, including processed meats
  • High-fat dairy, such as cheese, ice cream, and most coffee creamers

You may also want to avoid foods and drinks with caffeine, such as coffee and chocolate, as caffeine can interrupt your sleep cycle and make mood symptoms worse.   

What are the best foods for a better mood?

Science tells us that eating foods rich in nutrients and low in refined sugars and fats offer protection against low mood. The good news is that these foods are readily available and easy to incorporate into your diet.

Unprocessed, plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are the best choices for a better mood. If you’re hoping to feel better and enjoy an improved mood, try reaching for options like:

  • All vegetables and fruits, especially berries
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Oats (whole, not instant)
  • Lentils and beans
  • Whole-grain pasta and rice

When in doubt, know that the best foods for a better mood are always whole foods that not only help boost your mood but also help improve your overall health. 

When should I get professional help?

Mood disorders rarely go away on their own. In fact, they often get worse if left untreated. Seeking professional help before a mood disorder becomes severe can make it easier to treat.

If you’re worried you might have a mood disorder, it’s best to talk to your provider at Prima Medicine as soon as possible, especially if you feel like your symptoms are interfering with your relationships, social or professional life, or ability to function. 

To learn more about the link between diet and mood, or to get help for a mood disorder, book an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today.

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