grilled salmon

Mood challenges (depression, anxiety, mood swings) are becoming increasingly common in our modern society. Whether exacerbated by the stress of our 24×7 access, social media, or the foods we eat (or a combination), the incidence is on the rise. Mood challenges should always first be discussed with your doctor who might suggest a medication, supplement, counseling, or dietary change. Because many of the roots of mood disruption are chemical (neurotransmitter imbalances), eating foods that enhance gut as well as brain function can be helpful in enhancing overall wellbeing and can help boost low mood.

Fish – Wild caught fish that are high in omega 3’s like salmon, mackerel, and trout are great for boosting mood. Omega 3’s strengthen receptor sites for neurotransmitters as well as build connections between brain cells. Increasing omega 3’s can increase serotonin levels which naturally boosts mood.

Probiotic containing foods – Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi are just a few foods that naturally contain natural probiotics. Several studies have found that the microorganisms that live in your gut play a vital role in neurotransmitter function and affect your body’s stress response. This draws a connection between irritable bowel syndrome and depression/anxiety as people with IBS have higher than average incidence of depression and anxiety.

Nuts – For much the same reason as fish, nuts can help boost neurotransmitter levels. Walnuts, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, and hazelnuts all have brain boosting omega 3 with walnuts being the highest. One study found that depression scores were 26% lower in those who regularly ate 1/4 cup of walnuts per day.

Beans – Beans are helpful in fighting depression for several reasons. First, they contain substantial fiber and protein which help to balance blood sugar and regulate blood sugar related mood swings. Beans are also high in folate which helps the body use b 12 and amino acids which help to detoxify the cells and assist in neurotransmitter production. Folate is a key element for helping transform amino acids to neurotransmitters.

Poultry – Chicken and turkey contain tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin. Just 3 oz of chicken contains more than 100% recommended daily dose of tryptophan.

Veggies – Vegetables (especially leafy green ones) contain high levels of folate as well as fiber which helps maintain healthy gut function. Leafy greens are also a great source of ALA (alpha linoleic acid) which is one of the 3 main types of omega 3’s. A few of the major players are brussel sprouts, spinach, and kale.

Depression is absolutely a medical condition to discuss with your physician, but every effort counts. Food is information for your body. Including as many mood boosting foods as possible to naturally promote gut health and boost neurotransmitter production can be a great stand alone (if approved by your physician) or adjunct therapy to your pharmaceutical treatment.

Heart with Leaf


  • Aim for as many mood boosting foods as possible to naturally increase mood!