Three Foods To Boost Your Mood

mental health

In recent years, the connection between diet and mental health has gained considerable attention from the scientific community. It is now considered a powerful effective tool in our daily self care that can impact our mental health in both the short and the long term. A growing body of research suggests that certain foods can significantly impact our mood and overall emotional well-being. I want to explore three key foods that are always my ‘go to’s’ and are known for their mood-enhancing properties.

Oily Fish: The Role of Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Well I bet this came as a shock!! If you know my work you will know I have a bit of a thing about Omega 3, but justifiably so I would say. Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are renowned for their high content of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are crucial for brain health, contributing to the fluidity of cell membranes and playing a vital role in anti-inflammatory processes (Gómez-Pinilla, 2008). Research has shown that EPA and DHA can influence neurotransmitter synthesis and release, as well as neuronal growth and expression of neurotrophic factors, which are essential for brain plasticity and cognitive function (Su et al., 2009). Plus the fact that DHA is such an essential building block for the myelin sheath on our neurons, so important for carrying information along the neuron.

A meta-analysis of clinical trials has demonstrated that omega-3 supplementation can have a beneficial effect on depression symptoms, suggesting a potential therapeutic role for EPA and DHA in mood disorders (Lin & Su, 2007). The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids are believed to be one of the mechanisms behind their mood-stabilising effects, as inflammation is increasingly recognised as a key factor in the pathophysiology of depression (Miller, Maletic, & Raison, 2009).

Green Leafy Vegetables: Magnesium and GABA Elevation

Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, are rich sources of magnesium, a mineral that plays a crucial role in many physiological processes, including muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and the production of energy. Magnesium is also important for brain health, as it is involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and can elevate levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety (Boyle, Lawton, & Dye, 2017).

Magnesium's role in elevating GABA levels is particularly relevant for its mood-enhancing effects. Studies have found that low levels of magnesium are associated with increased anxiety and depression symptoms (Tarleton et al., 2017). Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to improve symptoms in individuals with depression and anxiety, highlighting the importance of adequate magnesium intake for emotional well-being (Eby & Eby, 2010).

Whole Grains: B Vitamins and Neurotransmitter Synthesis

Whole grains, including oats, brown rice, and quinoa, are an important part of a balanced diet, providing essential nutrients such as fiber, minerals, and B vitamins. B vitamins, particularly folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, are critical for the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are directly involved in mood regulation (Kennedy, 2016).

Deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to increased risk of depression and mood disorders. For instance, low levels of folate and vitamin B12 have been associated with depressive symptoms, and supplementation with these vitamins can improve mood in certain populations (Coppen & Bolander-Gouaille, 2005). The mechanism behind the mood-enhancing effects of B vitamins is thought to involve the homocysteine pathway, where B vitamins help to lower homocysteine levels, high levels of which have been linked to depression and other psychiatric disorders (Almeida et al., 2015).

Integrating Mood-Boosting Foods into Your Diet

Incorporating oily fish, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains into your diet can provide the essential nutrients needed to support mood and overall mental health. For oily fish, aiming for two to three servings per week can help ensure adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Including a variety of green leafy vegetables in daily meals can boost magnesium intake, while choosing whole grains over refined grains can increase the consumption of B vitamins.


The relationship between diet and mental health is complex and multifaceted, but the evidence supporting the mood-enhancing properties of oily fish, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains is compelling. By understanding the scientific basis for how these foods influence our emotional state, we can make informed dietary choices that support our mental well-being. As research in this area continues to evolve, the potential for dietary interventions to complement traditional treatments for mood disorders offers a promising avenue for improving mental health outcomes.


  •  Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429.
  •  Coppen, A., & Bolander-Gouaille, C. (2005). Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 19(1), 59-65.
  •  Eby, G. A., & Eby, K. L. (2010). Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: A review and hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses, 74(4), 649-660.
  •  Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578.
  •  Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68.
  •  Lin, P. Y., & Su, K. P. (2007). A meta-analytic review of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of antidepressant efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(7), 1056-1061.
  •  Miller, A. H., Maletic, V., & Raison, C. L. (2009). Inflammation and its discontents: the role of cytokines in the pathophysiology of major depression. Biological Psychiatry, 65(9), 732-741.
  •  Su, K. P., Tseng, P. T., Lin, P. Y., Okubo, R., Chen, T. Y., Chen, Y. W., & Matsuoka, Y. J. (2018). Association of use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with changes in severity of anxiety symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Network Open, 1(5), e182327.
  •  Tarleton, E. K., Littenberg, B., MacLean, C. D., Kennedy, A. G., & Daley, C. (2017). Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0180067.

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