Food and mood

Did you know that what you eat can affect your mental health?

Some foods contain vitamins and nutrients that support brain health and help improve mood, energy and concentration levels.

Fruits and vegetables

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibre found in food. They are the main source of energy for your body.

Fruits and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates that take longer for your body to break down. They release energy slowly and can boost mood over time. [2

Colourful fruits and vegetables also contain vitamins and antioxidants that help deal with stress.

Tip: Try reaching for a crunchy apple or a handful of berries when you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up. 


Your gut health and mental health are linked. Scientists think that fibre keeps the bacteria in your digestive system healthy and lowers our risk of depression. [3]

Wholegrains like oats, quinoa, corn, rye, barley and brown rice are good sources of fibre (along with fruits and vegetables).

Wholegrains also contain an amino acid that helps our body produce serotonin – a chemical that gets released into your brain and makes you feel happy! [1]   

Tip: Breakfast is a good time to load up on wholegrains, especially if you’re feeling a bit flat. Toast some rye bread or prepare some porridge the night before.

Fermented foods

Fermented foods contain good bacteria that also improves gut health. Eating more of these foods can help with feelings related to depression and anxiety.[1]

Tip: Fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut and unsweetened plain or Greek yoghurts that you can use as sides or toppings for your meals.


Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that are great for brain function and help circulate serotonin and dopamine (another feel-good chemical) around your body. Oily fish like salmon contains a fatty acid called DHA, which helps with memory, can reduce anxiety, and boost your mood.[1]

Tip: Tinned fish has the same benefits for your mental health as fresh fish but can be cheaper and easier to buy. Add to salads, wraps or pasta dishes twice a week.

Oils, nuts and seeds

Olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados are also good sources of healthy fats that improve brain health. [4]

Tip: Put some avocado in your morning smoothie. Add almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds to salads and soups. Swap processed oils (like canola) for extra virgin olive and sesame oil during your next supermarket shop.


[1] Headspace. (2019) The best foods for mental health (accessed on 1 April 2020).

[2] DAA. Carbohydrates – what you need to know (accessed on 3 April 2020).

[3] Swann, O.G. Kilpatrick, M. Breslin, M. Oddy, W.H. (2019) Dietary fiber and its associations with depression and inflammation. Nutrition Reviews. 78(5), pp 394-411.

[4] CDC. Healthy eating tips to try this month (accessed on 1 April 2020).

Page last updated: Wednesday, 18 May 2022