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Mood-Food Relationships

What Are Mood-Food Relationships?

Mood-food relationships describe how a person’s mood and the foods they eat are related. Correlation works in both directions.

The mood-food relationship describes mood determines what you eat. The food-mood relationship describes how the foods you eat determine your mood.

Food-Mood Relationship

The food-mood relationship describes how foods affect mood. Examples of this include how the tryptophan in turkey meat may cause fatigue, or the effects of energy drinks.

It is generally believed that healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, help to promote cheerfulness, satisfaction, and happiness. Other foods that have been found to boost mood include fish (including fish oils), nuts, and seeds.

Other foods may boost negative feelings, such as anger, frustration, tension, or anxiety. To keep your mood positive, some nutrition experts say that some people should avoid processed foods, including bread, sweets, chips, cereals, pasta, and alcohol.

Eating certain healthy foods may even lead to positive moods that carry over to the next day (White, et al.). However, small servings of such foods have little impact; seven to eight servings of fruits and vegetables are needed to improve mood.

Research on the relationships between food and mood is ongoing. However, there are several theories on how and why food affects mood. One such theory is related to the impact of sugar on blood sugar. Because blood sugar can affect energy and mood, it is thought that ingesting sugar can influence mood.

Another theory concerns brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. These are known to directly affect mood and feelings, and they may be influenced by the food a person ingests.

Other researchers are studying human reactions to artificial food coloring and flavors and sensitivities to certain foods, like dairy and gluten.

Mood-Food Relationship

The mood-food relationship describes how mood may influence a person’s food choices. An example of this is caffeine: many people grab a cup of coffee to give them a boost if they are feeling tired or irritable.

Feelings of sadness are sometimes accompanied by a craving for comfort foods, often rich in salt or sugar, or alcohol.

While many experts agree that our mood can determine what kinds of foods we crave, some research suggests that this is not always true. One study has found that one day’s moods don’t seem to impact food choices the next day (White, et al.). However, other research, as well as anecdotal evidence, seems to support the presence of a mood-food relationship.


Content licensed from:

Written by: Amber Erickson Gabbey
Medically reviewed on: Feb 10, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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