Food for Mood (And Thought)

For the past few years my diet has been mainly based around building muscle.

But long before I ever gave a hoot about my “gains”, I was a total nutrition nerd, and still am. I am a Precision Nutrition Certified Health Coach and read health, psychology and nutrition books for fun.

My passion for the link between mental health and diet started at a young age. As a young teenager I kept a journal where I made revelations about the state of my mental wellbeing and how it was connected to my diet. As someone prone to depression I was drawn to a coffee heavy diet, quick energy fixes like dried fruit and chocolate, and a few to many glasses of wine to ease my anxiety in social situations. But while most of my peers seemed to bounce back from poor diet choices and hangovers quickly, I could never ignore the dark cloud and anxious feelings it left me with. So I started studying how to feel better - from my diet to yoga and meditation.

I always noticed what made me feel GOOD. Lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and especially Omega rich foods like eggs and oily fish were like candy to my brain and my mood. Over the years I have grown accustomed to asking myself “How will this make me feel?” When making food choices, and have a tendency to eat really healthy with my mind in mind.

I always felt a little torn with the bodybuilding diet, which is often marketed with tons of processed bars and powders. I found myself hooked on their artificial sweetness and ease but always felt lackluster after (and bloated). So I’ve gone back to my roots.

These days I’m paying especially close attention my mental wellbeing as I resolve some longterm health complications that include high blood sugar, likely high cortisol and sleep issues (getting blood work and working with some professionals but all likely linked to years of stress. I am seeing great progress).

I’ve discovered that my mental wellbeing thrives with the right supplementation, a higher fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet focused on natural foods, and limiting vices such as caffeine and alcohol. Even two glasses of wine has proven to leave me in a really bad mental state the next day.

In doing some research, there is a lot of evidence between food and mood:



  • Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with anxiety and panic attacks; excessive drinking also depletes serotonin, which makes people prone to anxiety and depression.

  • Caffeinated beverages lower serotonin and increase the risk for anxiety, depression, and poor sleep.

  • Cut the refined sugar. Eating sweets raises blood sugar level, increases fat storage, and promotes a crash-and-burn feeling. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is important to achieve even-keeled energy levels. A 2017 study analyzed the sugar intake of over 23,000 people. They found that men who ate the most sugar — 67 or more grams a day, which is 17 teaspoons of sugar (or just under two cans of Coke) — were 23 percent more likely to develop depression or anxiety over five years compared to those in the bottom third who logged less than 40 grams a day (10 teaspoons).

Some food for thought. I think if you are suffering you should definitely seek out professional help, but changing your nutrition can be a great addition to traditional therapy and improve mood and overall self care.

What might a good mood day of eating look like?


Sprouted toast with avocado and two poached eggs

This will balance blood sugar and provide some healthy fats and omega 3s. Sprouted grains have more available nutrients than mature grains. The avocado will provide healthy fats and eggs are rich in Omega 3s and other mood boosting nutrients.


Handful of Brazil nuts and piece of fruit

Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, an important micronutrient for the brain and thyroid


Big leafy green salad with salmon, sauerkraut and miso dressing, sprinkled with nutritional yeast

Lots of nutrients in the greens, Omega 3s and vitamin D in the salmon, probiotics in the miso and sauerkraut, and B12 in the nutritional yeast


Green smoothie with plant protein, flaxseeds, a spoonful of almond butter and banana

A blood sugar balancing snack with healthy fats and flaxseed (rich in Omega 3s and shown to reduce stress and regulate bowel movements)


Roasted sweet potato, a small steak, steamed spinach with grass fed butter

A healthy complex carb super rich in B6, selenium rich beef, spinach for tryptophan and folate, and grass fed butter (higher in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, than conventional grain fed butter. These two fats have been shown to reduce depression)


Lankanto Probiotic Drinking Chocolate and a handful of walnuts

Probiotics and stress reducing walnuts

Some food for thought. I think if you are suffering you should definitely seek out professional help, but changing your nutrition can be a great addition to traditional therapy and improve mood and overall self care.

Gillian YoungComment