Those looking to improve their mood and give themselves a boost would do well to look at their diet, evidence suggests. It's believed that food choices play a considerable role in our overall mental well-being by helping to reduce stress, ease anxiety and even fight depression.
A growing body of research highlights the importance of reducing the consumption of processed foods, such as refined fats and sugars, in place of fresh, wholefoods. In particular, studies have shown that a high intake of fruits and vegetables is favourable when looking to diet to support your mood.
Beyond this, key additions such as omega-3 rich fats, fibre-rich wholegrains, fermented foods, proteins and dark green vegetables are notable when it comes to promoting mood balance and well-being.
1. Blueberry baked oats
Not only is our blueberry and nut oat bake a great make-ahead breakfast, it also packs a serious nutrition punch that’s good for the mind.
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Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and folate which support the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – key brain chemicals involved in mood regulation and balance. Oats also offer a great source of slow-release energy which helps to stabilise mood and blood sugar levels throughout the day.
For more inspiration, check out our healthy oat recipes collection.
2. Green smoothie
This naturally sweet green smoothie contains a whole host of nutritious ingredients such as flaxseeds, almonds and spinach.
The addition of banana offers a great source of the amino acid tryptophan which is required by the body to create serotonin – often referred to as the ‘happy chemical’ as it contributes to happiness and mental well-being. Bananas also provide vitamin B6 which aids the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin in the body.
Try more banana smoothie recipes.
3. Avocado & black bean eggs
Eggs offer a source of protein, vitamin D and B12. They also contain choline, a nutrient that supports the nervous system and helps to produce mood regulating brain chemicals. Not only a healthy (and creamy) source of fat, the avocados in this dish contain vitamin B5 which supports the adrenal glands (home to our stress hormone) – particularly beneficial during times of stress.
4. Stir-fried broccoli with coconut
Often referred to as ‘the calming mineral’, magnesium nourishes the nervous system and supports the action of brain chemicals such as GABA which play an important role in sleep and relaxation. Involved in over 300 reactions throughout the body, it also assists energy creation, bone health and the immune system. While magnesium can be found in many foods, such as beans, nuts and seeds, it’s particularly abundant in dark green vegetables.
5. Salsa verde salmon with smashed chickpea salad
Fatty fish like salmon are a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are highly anti-inflammatory and may support depression and improved mood. This recipe for salsa verde salmon not only provides a dose of healthy fats, but also offers added protein and fibre from the chickpeas.
For a plant-based omega-3 option, why not try our chocolate chia pudding?
6. Indian sweet potato & dhal pie
If you’re looking for a cheap and easy mood-boosting dinner, look no further than our Indian sweet potato & dhal pie. Packed full of fibre-rich vegetables, this is a great plant-based option. Lentils offer a generous supply of protein, iron and B vitamins which work together to support mood and energy balance. Try serving it with our garlicky greens for added fibre.
If you love vegetables, why not try some more of our great plant-based recipes?
7. Beef & bean chilli bowl with chipotle yogurt
This protein-rich beef & bean chilli bowl with chipotle yogurt offers a good source of iron and vitamin B3 (niacin). Both are involved in the production of serotonin, while B3 also helps the body to access energy from your food.
Learn more about the importance of iron in the diet.
8. Chilli tempeh stir-fry
This chilli tempeh provides a wonderful source of vegan protein and gut-loving prebiotics which play an important role in supporting our mood. Other fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi, offer a source of probiotics which also support gut health.
If tempeh isn’t your thing, why not try our kale and bulgur tabbouleh with yogurt dressing?
9. Lean turkey burger with sweet potato wedges
If you love burgers, why not try our lean turkey burger with sweet potato wedges as a way to support both your brain and your waistline? Turkey is rich in mood-supporting tryptophan, while sweet potato offers a great source of fibre and B6, which aid digestion and brain function.
For more ways to include turkey in your diet, check out some of our delicious turkey recipes.
10. Instant berry banana slush
While sugar might give you a boost at first, the crash often experienced after a sugar-high can make you feel worse than before. Try our instant berry banana slush for a sweet treat that’s packed with antioxidant-rich berries and fibre to keep your mind running smoothly.
Sweet tooth? Try out some more of our lower-sugar recipes.
11. Chicken satay salad
This chicken satay salad combines chicken and peanuts which are both high in protein. When we have more protein in our diet, it helps keep our blood sugars stable, which in turn supports more stable moods throughout the day. Chicken is also a good source of vitamin B12 which has been shown to help fight depression, and peanuts have been shown to help improve both memory and our stress response thanks to their high polyphenol content.
Check out more of our healthy chicken breast recipes.
12. Spinach, sweet potato & lentil dahl
Magnesium is the body’s natural relaxer and can help reduce anxiety. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are a great source of this all-important nutrient. This spinach, sweet potato & lentil dahl recipe is also packed with other mood-boosting nutrients, including folate, vitamin B6 and iron, as well as fibre which is important for gut bacteria. Did you know that gut bacteria helps to produce some of the brain chemicals we need to feel happier and calmer?
Discover more healthy ways with sweet potoato.
13. Banana oat pancakes
Bananas are super convenient and they contain tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin, our happy hormone. Therefore, including bananas in your diet may help promote a better mood. This banana oat pancakes recipe also contains oats which help to stabilise blood sugars, as well as important mood-boosting nutrients including iron, magnesium and B vitamins.
Kick-start your day with our healthy breakfast recipes.
14. Autumn vegetable salad with saffron dressing
Saffron is a spice that comes from the crocus sativus flower, and recent research has found that it may help to improve mood, particularly for those struggling with depression. Our autumn vegetable salad with saffron dressing combines the health benefits of saffron with fibre-rich vegetables that help support our gut microbiome and blood sugar.
Celebrate seasonal produce with our vibrant salad recipes.
15. Chicken, red pepper & almond traybake
This delicious one-pan dish comes with lots of mood-boosting ingredients, including chicken, which contains vitamin B12, plus red peppers which contain vitamins B6 and C. Both help to support brain health, playing a crucial role in influencing our moods. Our chicken, red pepper and almond traybake also features almonds, a source of tryptophan, the amino acid that helps produce our happy hormone, serotonin.
Learn more about the health benefits of almonds.
16. Simple sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that’s really easy to make at home. Use it as a side to many dishes, including salad, sausages, fish and chicken. A prebiotic, sauerkraut is food for our all-important gut bacteria; in recent years, there has been growing evidence of the ability of gut bacteria, or microbiome, to influence our brain health and moods through the gut-brain axis. Try our recipe for sauerkraut and begin adding it your diet on a regular basis.
17. Spiced salmon & tomato traybake
This healthy spiced salmon and tomato traybake is quick and easy to make. Salmon is a rich source of the all-important omega-3 nutrient. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means that the body cannot make it itself so must get it from food sources. Omega-3 has been widely researched for the role it plays in supporting our moods, by having anti-inflammatory effects on the brain as well as healthy neurotransmitter synthesis and communication.
For a nutritious supper, check out our salmon fillet recipes.
18. Oat & chia porridge
If you don’t eat fish, then try this oat & chia porridge for plant-based sources of omega-3. The chia seeds and flaxseeds found in this warming porridge recipe contain omega-3, which has been linked with improving symptoms of depression. This is also a dish that’s high in fibre, which has added benefits of supporting our moods by balancing blood sugar and healthy gut microbiome.
Browse our healthy porridge recipes for more nourishing ways to start your day.
19. Calves’ liver with sticky onion relish & prosciutto
Beef liver is possibly one of the most nutrient-dense foods around, and when it comes to our moods, it’s full of important nutrients. It’s one of the few food sources of vitamin D, which we normally get from exposure to the sun. It's been linked to relieving depression and better mood regulation, so it's always good to up your dose. Enjoy this calves’ liver with sticky onion relish & crispy prosciutto with a side of seasonal greens.
Not a fan of liver? Browse our healthy beef recipes instead.
20. Kidney bean curry
Iron is an essential nutrient that’s not only needed for healthy red blood cell formation, but for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Both of these brain chemicals help to regulate our mood and reduce anxiety. Kidney beans, found in this kidney bean curry, are a rich vegan source of iron as well as plant-based protein and other important mood-enhancing nutrients such as B6 and magnesium.
We have lots more vegetarian curries for you to enjoy.
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