Health & Wellness

Food and Mood

You probably already know that to have a healthy body, you need to fill it with healthy nutrition. But did you know that the same applies to your mind? Good mental health begins at your kitchen table. 

“It is vitally important for your mental wellness to fuel your body and mind with a colorful diet that is rich in lean protein, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. At the same time, it is key not to deprive ourselves of foods that foster joy and community, like birthday cake, chocolate, or ice cream and hot dogs in the summer,” explains Silvia Solano, RDN, Nutrition Coordinator for The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. 

Mood-Boosting Vitamins and Minerals

There is a long list of vitamins and minerals we should eat every day. We need iron to transport oxygen to and carbon dioxide away from our cells. Iron also helps our immune system function at its best. Vitamin C helps our body absorb the iron we eat. When our bodies do not absorb enough iron, it leads to anemia, or inadequate red blood cells. “Low levels of some vitamins and minerals can cause symptoms like fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and a depressed mood,” says Solano.  Another culprit if you’re feeling depressed, tired, or cannot concentrate may be insufficient folate. Folate helps tissues grow, forms your DNA, and generates protein and red blood cells. 

Physical vs. Emotional Hunger

In addition to monitoring what you eat, we know that why you eat can also impact your mood. When your stomach is empty, it sends a signal to your brain that reminds you to eat. That is what we know as physical hunger. 

“Ignoring these hunger cues and even purposely depriving yourself will lead to irritability, decreased metabolic rate, and may eventually lead to bingeing or overeating,” explains Solano. 

On the other hand, sometimes we eat for reasons other than physical hunger, such as for entertainment, distraction, or comfort. In these scenarios, we are responding to emotional hunger. Following physical hunger cues and doing your best to identify and limit the times you obey emotional hunger cues help you give your body what it needs—and not give it what it doesn’t need, helping you be your physical and emotional best self. 

Find brain-boosting nutrition in these foods:
  • Iron
    • Fortified cereals, beans, peas, meats, and dried fruit
  • Vitamin D
    • Fortified milk, cereals, fatty fish, and exposure to sunlight
  • Folate
    • Orange juice, spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, peanuts, avocado, and enriched-grain products


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