MOOD-FOOD Connection

Author: Dr. Angeli Chitale, BSc ND  

Synapse and Neuron, sending electrical and chemical signals.

Why does food affect our mood?

At times you may unexpectedly find yourself short with people, irritable or just in a bad mood. Have you stopped to consider it may be what you ate (or did not eat) that is affecting how you behave and your mood? Here is some insight into how and why this happens and how you can improve your mood by making a few key changes in what you eat every day:

ARE you LOW in SUGAR? What makes blood sugar go low?

  1. Eating processed foods, which are high in sugar cause high glucose and high insulin. Studies show that when blood sugar levels fall, an increased expression of depression, hostility and aggression / anger in people who have insulin resistance.
  2. Irritable or “hangry” moods are worsened when missed a meal while under stress – low sugar impairs brain function and the ability to suppress emotion by the cerebral cortex (higher brain).
  3. Nutrient deficiencies such as low zinc, chromium, and B6 can also impact mood during hunger.


Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins which are vital to physical and mental/emotional wellness.

Protein provides a lasting source of energy and protects from rapid low blood sugar crashes.


Neurotransmitters are chemicals your brain responsible for regulating mood. Certain neurotransmitter deficiencies, such as low serotonin levels, are linked to depression and seasonal affective disorder. In fact, it is the serotonin receptor that is the target of many of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, research is now providing a growing body of evidence that many neurotransmitters which regulated mood are actually manufactured in the digestive tract.

Serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to good mood – 90% is made in the gut:

90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. In fact, altered levels of peripheral serotonin have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.  

Dopamine, the neurotransmitter linked to reward – 50% is made in the gut:

If that is not enough, about half of the Dopamine, the “reward” neurotransmitter is made in the stomach.  

6 ways to BOOST NEUROTRANSMITTERS in your body:

  1. Improve nutrition – are you getting enough amino acids, fats, minerals, water, and fibre? Focus on the quality and quantity of food by choosing more nutrient-dense options.
  2. Are you using medication which may interfere with nutrient absorption? Ex. Antacids block mineral absorption over a period of time.
  3. Use natural alternatives to manage stress by practicing deep breathing, yoga, meditation, relaxation – all of these practices helps regulate the stress response which impacts digestive function, mood regulation and insulin levels.
  4. Find out and correct underlying causes of poor nutrient absorption Ex. zinc tally, stool testing, digestive functional, parasite, dysbiosis, IBS, IBD etc.
  5. Improve gut flora by eating fermented foods and/or taking probiotics.
  6. Take digestive nerve tonics such as lemon-balm and catnip, which serve to relax and support the digestive process, which enhance nutrient absorption.

Want to feel better through nutrition?

Eating a balanced diet of fibre, protein, good fats and complex carbs helps maintain blood sugar balance and a balanced mood. Choose to consciously include these foods for improved mood:

  • Amino acids (ex. protein supplement).
  • Cofactors (vitamins and minerals) in your diet.  
Serotonin PleasureEggs, Cheese, Pineapple, Tofu, Salmon, Nuts, and Turkey all support Tryptophan production which converts to serotonin.
DopamineRewardDairy (milk, cheese and yogurt). Unprocessed meats (beef, chicken and turkey). Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel, Eggs. Fruit and vegetables, in particular bananas. Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts. Dark chocolate 75% or higher.
OxytocinLoveEggs, bananas, black pepper.  
Endorphins High/elatedExercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release. Even the anticipation and expectation of laugher, e.g., attending a comedy show, increases levels of endorphins. … Studies have shown that dark chocolate and spicy foods can lead the brain to release endorphins.
CatecholaminesMojo “get up & go” Beef, fish and eggs, and also triggered by: Caffeine (through the release of adrenaline), chocolate, wine and beer
(although hard on the body).


Sex differences in the relation of depressive symptoms, hostility, and anger expression to indices of glucose metabolism in non-diabetic adults.


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