12 Mood-Boosting Foods: Eat Your Way to Happiness!

22 Feb 2024

Grace Yanni Yanti, dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, shares 12 mood-boosting foods and gives recommendations on how you can include them into your daily meals to reap their benefits.

We've all heard the phrase: "You are what you eat." Have you ever considered, however, that what you eat might also affect how you feel?

Certain foods are filled with essential vitamins, minerals, and compounds that have the potential to lift our spirits. Consuming mood-boosting foods not only offers potential mental health benefits – they can also improve our overall physical well-being.

Here, we'll delve into 12 delectable foods that might just brighten your day a little more, and how you can include them in your daily meals.

1. Dark chocolate

Rich in flavonoids, dark chocolate has been linked to increased serotonin levels which may help alleviate symptoms of depression.

Add chunks to your morning oatmeal, melt it into coffee, or just enjoy a small piece as an after-dinner treat. Remember, moderation is key.

2. Bananas

These yellow delights are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid that's a precursor to serotonin. They're also filled with vitamin B6, which aids in mood regulation.

Perfect as a grab-and-go snack, they can also be sliced onto cereal, blended into smoothies, or baked into muffins.

3. Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants that combat oxidative stress, which has been linked to mood disorders.

A versatile fruit, berries can be added to yogurt, mixed into pancakes, or even tossed into a salad for a sweet touch.

4. Oily fish

Salmon, mackerel, and sardines

Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are brimming with omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties and potential to combat depression.

Grilled salmon for dinner is always delightful. If you're in the mood for something different, consider having Japanese or Korean cuisine where mackerel is a key ingredient in dishes like grilled mackerel and spicy mackerel stew. For a simple yet tasty snack, add sardines to your salads or enjoy them on toast.

5. Nuts and seeds

Walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are other fantastic sources of omega-3s. Plus, they’re versatile and can be sprinkled onto nearly any dish.

Enhance your salads with walnuts or savour them as standalone snacks. You can also boost your smoothies by adding chia seeds.

6. Oats

A perfect breakfast choice, oats release energy slowly, preventing the sugar spikes and dips that can affect our mood.

Move beyond the usual cooked oats. Use them to make overnight oats with fruits and nuts, homemade granola or granola bars, or even savoury oatmeal with veggies.

7. Spinach

This leafy green is rich in folate, a B vitamin that helps produce the mood-regulating neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine.

Throw in a few spinach leaves when making a fresh smoothie at home, or add them into your next home-cooked omelette.

8. Avocados


Creamy and delicious, avocados are rich in B vitamins and monounsaturated fats, which can be beneficial for neurotransmitter and brain health.

Smash onto toast, blend into guacamole, or slice and add to salads and sandwiches. Blend it into a smooth and creamy avocado milkshake by combining it with milk, a touch of sweetener, and ice.

9. Green tea

Filled with amino acid L-theanine, green tea may help promote relaxation.

Green tea not only provides a gentle caffeine boost to kick-start your day with alertness and mental clarity but also has the calming influence of L-theanine. This combination helps you stay alert and clear-headed without the usual jitters or restlessness that caffeine alone can bring.

Sip it hot in the morning or cold-brew it for a refreshing afternoon beverage. It can also be used as a base for soups in dishes such as thunder tea rice.

10. Beans

Rich in protein and fibre, beans help to maintain stable blood sugar levels, preventing mood swings.

Black beans are great in tacos, and chickpeas can be roasted for a crunchy snack or blended into hummus.

11. Poultry

Chicken and turkey are excellent sources of tryptophan, which boosts serotonin production, elevating mood.

Grill chicken breasts for salads or sandwiches, or enjoy turkey as a lean alternative in burgers or stir-fries.

12. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes

These are filled with fibre and complex carbohydrates which can help stabilise blood sugar levels and mood.

Roast them as wedges, mash them as a side dish, or stuff them with beans and veggies for a complete meal.

Incorporating these foods into your diet doesn't just add variety and flavour, but they could potentially lift your mood and enrich your overall sense of well-being. As with everything, balance is key. So, why not try adding a few of these mood-boosting wonders into your next meal and see how they make you feel?

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