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What is the Relationship Between Food and Mood?

It is well known that unhealthy eating patterns can cause mood swings. Blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances are often to blame. Without a steady source of fuel from the foods we eat, our mind and bodies don’t function well. Here’s how some unhealthy eating habits can alter your mood and emotional well-being:

  1. Skipping meals. Missing a meal, especially breakfast, can lead to low blood sugar. This will likely leave you feeling weak and tired.
  2. Cutting out entire food groups. If you reduce the variety of foods in your diet, it can be more difficult to get all the essential nutrients you need. Low levels of zinc, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids are associated with worsening mood and decreased energy.
  3. Eating too many refined carbohydrates. High intakes of unhealthy, processed carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries, cause blood sugars to rise and fall rapidly. This can lead to low energy and irritability.

Beyond mood and general well-being, the role of diet and nutrition on mental health is very complex and has yet to be fully understood. However, research linking the two is growing at a rapid rate. In recent years, evidence shows that food can contribute to the development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders.

Researchers are also taking a closer look at why diet may influence mental health. Studies are exploring diet’s effects on gut microbiota (organisms in the intestinal tract), neuroplasticity (brain’s ability to modify structure, wiring and function), oxidative stress (cellular damage) and chronic inflammation.

While we still have much to learn about the effects of dietary patterns on mental health issues, evidence suggests that eating a healthy diet can have a protective effect. In fact, many believe that good nutrition is as important to mental health as it is to physical health. Here are some positive changes you can make to improve your eating to support your mental health:

  1. Eat at set intervals throughout the day
  2. Choose less refined sugars and eat more whole grains
  3. Include protein at each meal
  4. Eat a variety of foods
  5. Include omega-3 rich foods, like oily fish, in your diet
  6. Reach and maintain a healthy weight
  7. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water
  8. Get regular exercise

Following a healthy eating plan can keep you energized and help you to feel your best. While good nutrition is an important component of your emotional well-being, it is not a substitute for proper medical care and treatment. If you have concerns about your mental health, talk to your health care provider.


Amy Magill, MA, RD, LDN enjoys providing tips on how manage your moods as well as your food choices as Manager of Clinical Programs and nutrition writer for Walgreens. Find a variety of vitamins at Walgreens.com to supplement a nutritious diet. 

Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes for loss or damage due to reliance on this material. Walgreens does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in the article. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.