How Food affects your Mood

Updated: Mar 8


by Larisa Belote

Ever wonder why sometimes people have low mood, feel angry, irritable or depressed?

Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates said: “Let thy food be your medicine, and thy medicine be thy food”.


He was right and probably knew that the effect of good food has profound implications for brain health. There is research that tells us that food choices that we make, strongly affect our mood.

SAD (Standard American Diet) which is high in sugar, low in fiber and nutrients and high in additives and chemicals are strongly correlated with an increased risk of developing depression, irritability…in other words “mood changes”.


The brain is an organ with very high metabolic and nutrient demands and consumes about 20% of a person’s daily caloric intake. It is composed of 60% fat and contains high concentrations of cholesterol and PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids) such as Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for the central nervous system because they form a part of neuronal cell membrane and regulate neurotransmission, influence gene expression, act as anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.


The balance of Omega 3 and 6 are also important. Unfortunately, the SAD diet tends to be abundant in omega-6 fatty acids (found in corn and soy oils), and quite low in omega-3s (found in fish, seafood and grass-fed beef), which is a phenomenon that occurred with the shift towards industrialized and processed food. A SAD diet is terrible for the brain and for your mood.

Production of neurotransmitters such as Dopamine and Serotonin to name a few is crucial for brain health and mood. What is now emerging from the world of science is that certain foods help our guts produce neurotransmitters that control how our brain functions.


Dopamine is the neurotransmitter associated with motivation, emotional significance, relevance, focus, and the ability to experience pleasure. Research is showing that you get a surge of dopamine when you hear a text notification or when you get several likes on social media. Yes! That is true! This is one of the theories as to why we are all addicted to our phones.

But there are several healthy foods that will give you the same dopamine high such as lima beans, lentils, meat, fish, lamb, turkey, chicken, eggs, nuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, broccoli and spinach.


Serotonin is the “don’t worry, be happy” chemical that controls moods, sleep, appetite control, and social engagement. Unfortunately, this amazing neurotransmitter goes low during a women’s menstrual cycle, causing irritability and depression. This is part of the reason cravings for starchy carbohydrates and chocolate sets in at this time.

SEROTONIN stimulating foods are sweet potatoes, hummus, blueberries, apples, pears, peaches, bananas, mangoes, oranges, tangerines, pineapple and of course dark chocolate.

Serotonin is also produced in the gut, so keeping a healthy microbiome in your gut will encourage your body to naturally produce more serotonin.

There is an amazing path to happiness through healthy foods. Choose healthy foods for happiness and ditch the SAD diet!


Larisa Belote, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Detox Specialist and is a strong believer that your body is a smart machine and can heal itself given a chance and the right set of tools. Contact Larisa to set up a FREE 20-minute consultation. Call/text 732.996.6963 or email: larisa@stepbystep-wellness.com



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