25 Foods That Instantly Enhance Your Mood

Dark chocolate, coconuts, greek yoghurt... how do you stay happy?

Are you in need of a quick pick-me-up? Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to crazy mood swings, just as an empty stomach can make you cranky. Additionally, a lack of proper vitamins and nutrients can affect your mood, making you feel down, foggy, and sluggish. Fortunately, it is possible to feel better in just a short amount of time, as long as you consume food your body will thank you for. If you’re not exactly sure what your body and brain need, check out the list below of 25 foods that can make you feel better in an instant!

(johnloo / Flickr)

1. Dark Chocolate

Eating just a small sliver of dark chocolate reduces cortisol levels, the hormone responsible for stress, according to “Eating Well.” While the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland is behind the research, experts agree the reduction in stress hormones could be contributed to the antioxidants in the chocolate. Eating chocolate could help stimulate the production of endorphins, which will make you feel better in no time.

Additionally, research has shown that dark chocolate can contribute to improving blood flow to the brain to help keep you energized and feeling good. Plus, the caffeine in chocolate can give you a little burst of energy you may be desperate for. Skip the sugar-loaded milk chocolate and buy dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cacao you can find. Or if you want the best for your brain, go right with the cocoa powder.

2. Coconut

The smell of coconut alone could naturally slow your heart rate and help you better manage stress. Researchers out of Columbia University suspect inhaling a pleasant scent can help with how we respond to stress. Additionally, the oils in coconut provide a boost of energy thanks to a type of fat that is turned into energy quickly. The body uses coconut for energy instead of storing it as fat, which is exactly what all of us are looking for! So, the next time you’re overwhelmed with worry, stress, or anxiety, reach for coconut.

3. Tea

Drinking black, green, or oolong tea can help clear your mind and improve your focus and attention. While several cups a day may give you the biggest benefit, just one cup can help you feel better almost instantly. According to researchers, an amino acid called theanine may be responsible for the improved mood and attention span. Plus, the combination of caffeine and theanine can help improve your heart rate, boost energy levels, and help you feel more relaxed, which certainly leads to a better mood. Not to mention how relaxing it can be to sit down and take a moment to sip on a warm mug of tea!

4. Mussels

I know what you’re thinking, who has mussels laying around? Chances are, not you; but you may want to head somewhere that does. Mussels are loaded with vitamin B12 which is one of the best vitamins available for your brain. If you’re like a large number of Americans, you are deficient in B12, which is important to insulate brain cells and helps the brain stay healthy as we grow older. Additionally, mussels help boost your mood thanks to the zinc, selenium, and iodine they contain. According to “Rodales Organic Life,” you want to look for farmed mussels, not wild, and mussels that were raised in the United States.

(rusty_clark / Flickr)

5. Swiss Chard

You may not think of leafy greens when looking for a mood boost, but Swiss chard may be exactly what you need. Swiss chard is loaded with magnesium which can help boost energy levels. According to an article published by “Psychology Today,” magnesium deficiency could be one of the reasons some people are diagnosed with depression.


6. Blue Potatoes

Blue potatoes are loaded with antioxidants that can help boost short-term memory and reduce inflammation. The skins of the potatoes contain a significant amount of iodine which can help regulate the thyroid. When shopping, it’s important to reach for organic potatoes, to avoid chemicals and pesticides that could be absorbed into the potatoes.

7. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt contains more calcium than milk or regular yogurt and giving your body the calcium it needs can help reduce chances of depression, anxiety, irritability, slow thinking, and impaired memory, according to Drew Ramsey, author of “The Happiness Diet.”

Dairy products, especially Greek yogurt produced from cows raised on grass pastures, are high in healthy fats and contain higher levels of CLA, the fat that reduces the effects of stress.

8. Cherry Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that helps protect the brain and stops the build-up of compounds that have been linked to depression. Cherry tomatoes are actually the best way to get lycopene because it lives in tomato skins. Cherry tomatoes have a smaller surface area which means you’ll consume more skin than you would by eating regular tomatoes.

9. Eggs

Dave Ramsey believes eggs are the “perfect food.” There’s no denying they’re good for you, considering they’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and iodine, which are all great for your brain and therefore your mood. Eggs are also loaded with vitamin D, commonly referred to as the “mood-regulating” vitamin. Consuming enough Vitamin D is especially important during winter months when it’s not as easy to get the vitamin D your body and brain needs to regulate mood. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re consuming pastured eggs because those are the ones particularly high in the vitamins and minerals you’re looking for.

(dinnerseries / Flickr)

10. Salmon

Salmon is another source of omega-3 fatty acids which are great for boosting energy, brain circulation, and brain activity. According to “Fit Day,” Salmon is also a great source of vitamin D, which can also help fight depression and boost mood. When shopping for salmon, be sure you’re purchasing wild-caught, as it contains more omega-3’s and is better for the environment.

11. Banana

Bananas are one of the best sources of natural energy, thanks to potassium and B vitamins, according to Karen Gordon, an author for “Net Doctor.” If you’re feeling sluggish, reach for the yellow fruit. Its vitamins and carbohydrates will help keep your blood sugar stable, helping you focus.

12. Beans and Lentils

Beans, lentils, and legumes help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes that can ruin your entire day. Not to mention they’re loaded with protein and fiber which will keep you full and satisfied, to avoid those “hangry” mood swings.

13. Kale

Another leafy green that can fuel your body and boost your mood in an instant is kale. Kale is full of vitamins and minerals like potassium, copper, phosphorus, and iron. Kale also contains a good amount of calcium, which has been shown to help with PMS-related depression. If your “time of the month” is approaching, reach for your leafy greens! Because cooked kale is easier for your body to digest, try steamed kale or homemade baked kale chips.

14. Nuts

Nuts like almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts contain high levels of magnesium which is necessary for improving your mood and helping you feel more energized. Additionally, they’re loaded with fiber which helps control your blood sugar.

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15. Goji Berries

Goji berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The bright red berries help increase energy and improve the body’s ability to deal with stress. They’re also great for improving your mood and boosting your memory.

16. Citrus Fruit

Vitamin C is powerful stuff! Citrus fruit like oranges, strawberries, and mango not only taste great, but they can boost your mood. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help reduce symptoms of depression and improve your ability to cope with stress, according to “Women’s Health” magazine. Fruits like strawberries can also help your body fight against the build-up of free radicals, which means being more capable of recovering from stress in a reasonable amount of time. Additionally, similar to coconut, the smell of citrus fruits can help give you an immediate mood and energy boost.

17. Celery

Celery may not exactly be the most satisfying food to munch on, but the pungent crunch can help you relieve stress and relax. Research has shown that celery contains a chemical that can help lower the amount of stress hormones in the blood.

18. Apples

According to “One Green Planet,” Apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin which can help fuel neurotransmitters in the brain, reduce inflammation, and therefore improve your mood. Apples are also loaded with vitamin C and fiber to keep you full and your insulin levels stable.

19. Oats

According to Karen Gordon with “Net Doctor,” oats are a great way to boost your mood because of their ability to slowly release energy into the bloodstream and keep both your blood sugar and your mood stable. They also contain selenium which is a mineral known for boosting your mood. Plus, according to Dr Judith J Wurtman, author of “The Serotonin Power Diet,” slow-digesting carbohydrates like oats can help the brain produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood.

Oats are also a good option for those looking for mood stability and increased energy, because of their high levels of iron.

(get self-sufficient / Flickr)

20. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are another snack food or meal ingredient that is loaded with nutrients like vitamin B6, magnesium, and protein, according to “One Green Planet.” Vitamin B6 can help increase energy and lower anxiety, while the protein helps produce “feel good” hormones. Additionally, vitamin B6 has been shown to help with symptoms of PMS-related depression. Magnesium is important for mental health as well, and chickpeas are one of the highest sources of it.

21. Hemp

The folks over at “One Green Planet” are also huge fans of hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are loaded with magnesium, protein, fiber, vitamin B6, iron, and potassium. To boost your mood, try adding some hemp seeds to your meal or drink a smoothie with hemp protein.

22. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and some yogurts contain plenty of healthy bacteria known as probiotics. Probiotics are essential to maintaining gut health, and according to Dr Felice Jacka, President of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research and the Australian Alliance for the Prevention of Mental Disorders, a happy gut is a happy brain. Additional sources of fermented foods include plain yogurt, miso, and fermented soy sauce. While you may not want to eat them alone, adding them to a snack or a meal can indeed work wonders.

23. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are loaded with nutrients like zinc that have been linked to lower levels of depression and anxiety. Katie Waldeck at Care2 named sesame seeds a top mood-boosting food, writing “good things come in small packages.” Both sesame seeds and sesame oil can work to give you the benefits you’re looking for.

24. Spinach

We have to add one more leafy green to our list; they’re just that good for you! Spinach is loaded with folate that has been shown to fight depression, as well as magnesium, which you know by now is a good thing! Folate, according to an article published on Oprah.com, is a B vitamin that can help boost mood. Harvard Medical School researchers found that boosting the folate levels of depressed patients improved their mood, so eat up! Spinach is also loaded with zinc, which you definitely want to fight depression and boost your mood.

25. Flaxseed

Fish may be the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, but flaxseeds don’t fall far behind. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are loaded with the healthy fats that can help fight depression, boost your mood, and even potentially ward off other mental disorders. Consuming just two tablespoons of flaxseeds gives you 130 percent of the daily recommended amount of omega-3’s.

Eat Smart

It’s important to understand just how much what you eat can affect your body and your emotions, even right away. As tempting as it can be to turn to unhealthy comfort foods, there is no denying certain foods are better than others when it comes to making you feel better. It’s important to think long-term when attempting to change your body mentally and physically, but immediate results are possible. You’re just a few smart decisions away from feeling like a brand new person!

Emily Hayden

Emily Hayden is a stay-at-home, single mom of one with a passion for parenting, writing, and life in general. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Cincinnati where she played volleyball for the Bearcats

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