How Food Can Affect Your Mood

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(Image credit: Hot chocolate photo via Shutterstock)

Have you ever had a meal that just made you feel instantly good? You know the type I mean — comfort food that isn't great for your long-term health, but it makes you feel good at the moment.

A 1999 article in the journal Public Health Nutrition explained that such foods prompt the body to release endorphins, which trigger positive feelings.

But that's just a temporary feel-good reaction. The real effect of food on mood happens over time.

Our internal organs need nutrients in order to function properly, and the brain is no exception. We need a steady flow of nutrients from our diets to maintain good health, and a good mood.

One nutrient that may affect our mood is folate. A 2009 study in the journal Nutrition Reviews  found that as many as 38 percent of adults with depressive disorders were low or deficient in folate. Researchers wrote that the deficiency may impair the body's ability to produce neurotransmitters that act as important mood stabilizers.

Thiamine can also help improve your mood, according to the Public Health Nutrition study. Four double-blind studies showed that an increase in thiamine levels was associated with improved mood in participants. People who were deprived of thiamine showed signs of anorexia, muscle weakness, irritability and depression.

And magnesium is important to have in your diet, if you want to keep that rosy disposition, according to a 2006 article in the journal Medical Hypotheses. Patients recovered from major depression within 7 days of taking a magnesium supplement with each meal, that study reported. Though those results may not be typical, and people with major depression should seek the care of a doctor, the researchers concluded that inadequate levels of magnesium in the body can result in damage to the brain's neurons, which may cause symptoms of depression.

To combat deficiency-related symptoms of depression, eat a balanced whole foods diet filled with mood-boosting nutrients. Here are some examples:

  • Folate: Lentils are among the most folate-dense foods, so try to incorporate them into your diet. Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and collard greens, are also high in folate.
  • Thiamine: Kidney beans are rich in thiamine as well as folate, making them a really great mood-boosting food. Sesame seeds, pistachios and macadamia nuts are also good sources of thiamine.
  • Magnesium: Wheat bran, pumpkin seeds and cocoa powder are all rich in magnesium. Do you really need another reason to pour yourself that glass of hot cocoa?

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!

Deborah Enos
Deborah Enos, CN, also known as "The One-Minute Wellness Coach," is The Health Coach for busy, working people. She pares her good-health messages down to simple and fast bullet points that can impact lives in 60 seconds or less. Deborah serves as a board member of the American Heart Association.  In addition to writing the Healthy Bites column for Live Science, Deborah is a regular on FOX Business News, NBC and ABC, and is a frequent contributor to The Costco Connection, Parade Magazine, Self Magazine, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. Deborah is also The One Minute Wellness Coach for The Doctors TV Show.