ABOUT

Guard Your Health is a resource for Army National Guard Soldiers and family members. Find health-related tools and information. Hear from fellow Soldiers and Families. Make medical readiness part of your personal mission.

10 Foods That Affect Your Mood

Indifferent, smiley and sad face made of strawberries on white plates.

iStock/Windujedi

In this Article:

  • Learn which foods to eat to keep you feeling great throughout the day.
  • Load up on foods packed with vitamins and nutrients.
  • Avoid packaged foods that contain artificial ingredients.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” While you won’t cluck like a chicken after eating eggs, the foods you eat can affect how you feel physically and mentally. Food sends chemical signals to the brain that can leave you feeling good or sluggish. Check out the list below to learn which foods to stock up on and ones to avoid.

Mood Boosters

Try adding more of these foods into your daily diet to stay full and have steady energy all day:

Water

Have a headache? Feeling tired? Have a glass of water and you might feel better. Your body is mostly made up of water so proper hydration is important. Calculate how much water you should drink with this hydration calculator.

Berries

Berries are rich in folate, a B vitamin that helps produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain. Eat them by the fistful, scatter over cereal, or blend in a smoothie.

Nuts

Almonds, cashews, and walnuts are nutrient powerhouses. They are loaded with good fats and fiber that keep you full. They also contain phenylalanine, an amino acid that directly affects mood and energy. For a nutty kick, look for bread baked with nuts and seeds.

Chicken

Chicken is a great source of vitamin B12, which research shows can help reduce depression. Try pairing grilled, roasted, or baked chicken with some green vegetables for the ultimate happy meal.

Spinach

These little leaves are loaded with iron, an essential nutrient that helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Low iron often means low energy, which is a major mood killer. Use spinach in salads, or add it to pasta and sandwiches to pump up your iron intake. Or try this spinach stuffed chicken recipe.

Mood Busters

Steer clear of these five foods that can leave you feeling “hangry” and tired:

Hot Dogs

American classic and summertime staple, hot dogs are loaded with sodium nitrate. Though this ingredient keeps hot dogs and other processed meats (bacon and lunch meats) from spoiling, it may also cause migraines and tension headaches, and put you at greater risk of developing cancer when eaten often. If a frank is a must-have for the summer, limit your intake and look for hot dogs with no added nitrates.

Donuts

Donuts and other breakfast pastries are high in fat and refined carbohydrates, which means they are quickly digested and cause a spike and then crash in blood sugar. Low blood sugar can leave you feeling cranky, shaky, and tired. Choose whole grain toast, bagels, or English muffins instead to slow down digestion.

Fake Sugars

Sugar substitutes are common ingredients in packaged foods and drinks, including diet soda. They often go by aspartame, sucralose, and many other names (often ending in ‘ose’) that are hard to pronounce. These substances can lower serotonin levels in the brain and contribute to depression. Learn how added sugar affects your body.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant. Although having a beer after a long day may help you relax and unwind, regularly drinking alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. Rather than heading to the bar, hit the gym or go for a run if you’ve had a rough day.

Fried Foods

Fried foods contain large amounts of fatty acids. Bad fats in fried foods also contribute to inflammation in the body, tiredness, and achy joints. A tasty alternative is our baked “fried” chicken recipe.

Want More?