Here are 32 foods that can actually help lift your mood, if your day needs a feel-good boost

Try these foods that can actually help lift your mood, according to science...

Heathy mood-boosting food
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Feeling down? There are foods that can actually help lift your mood, with increasing scientific evidence of the positive role certain nutrients play. While it is always essential to first seek specialist support from a doctor if you're struggling with your mental health, your diet can also have a huge impact on psychological wellbeing. 

Tweaking your meals has been shown to have a protective effect on the mind and keep bad days at bay. However, there is increasing evidence of how particular brain-nourishing foods can help those who are experiencing a whole range of common mental health conditions - including anxiety and stress symptoms, as well as the early signs of burnout and depression.

Even better, many of the best mood-elevating groceries will already likely be on your regular shopping list, from eggs and broccoli to chicken and olive oil. What's more, as we'll reveal, the most nutritious feel-good items - with which you can easily and affordably upgrade your current breakfast, lunch and dinner - still come packed with plenty of flavour...

32 foods that can actually help lift your mood 

1. Salmon

Salmon fillet with vegetables

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The oily fish is a beloved member of the Mediterranean diet family. Salmon comes packed with omega-3 fatty acids which research has found can help protect against depression. Indeed, one study showed that two types - docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - have been linked to lower levels of the mental health condition.

2. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate

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A square or two of dark chocolate should be a go-to if you're wondering what to snack on when dieting, with plenty of evidence that it can help curb sugar cravings. However, research has shown that the sweet treat can also lift your spirits, finding that an 85 per cent cocoa version was able to improve mood when consumed daily for three weeks. 

3. Bananas

Banana and nut butter on toast

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Bananas may be best known for their blood pressure-lowering potassium levels, but there's also evidence that the popular fruit can help drive a sunny disposition as strong as its bright yellow skin. A study showed its high vitamin B6 content helped the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin work their magic.

4. Oats

Porridge with fruit

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If you're after a breakfast that will help brighten up a chilly morning, then you can't go wrong with a hearty bowl of porridge. Oats have a naturally high fibre content, with research showing that upping levels of the macronutrient in your first meal of the day has been linked to better mood and energy levels. This is thought to be due to more stable blood sugar levels curbing irritability.

5. Berries

Mix of berries

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Berries can evoke feelings of summertime good weather in an instant, an association rooted in the time of year when they are naturally in season. However, there seems to be another reason for the associations of things like blueberries and raspberries with happiness. A study has linked a diet rich in antioxidants - which they contain plenty of - to better management of inflammation, which has been linked to conditions like depression.

6. Nuts

Mix of nuts

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When it comes to healthy foods that can be consumed on the go, nuts lead the charge. Even better, the likes of almonds, peanuts, cashews and walnuts are a rich source of an amino acid called tryptophan, which research has shown is behind the mood-bosting neurotransmitter serotonin. There is also evidence that zinc and selenium, found in Brazil nuts, are linked to lower rates of depression.

7. Lentils

Lentil stew

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Lentils can provide the simple base to a heartwarming, filling dinner on gloomier days. The pulses are naturally high in B vitamins, which research has found can help improve your mood by triggering elevated levels of the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

8. Eggs

Poached egg on toast

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While most mood-boosting vitamin D is absorbed from the sun, eggs are one of the few food sources of the essential nutrient - whether poached, fried, hard-boiled or scrambled. A study found that the kitchen staple was linked to a reduced risk of depressive symptoms. Sunny side up it is.

9. Kimchi


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Kimchi uses a variety of fermented vegetables - such as spring onions, garlic and ginger - and is one of the most well-known probiotic foods. These have been shown to aid gut health, which research has found to influence the body's feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin.

10. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds on salad

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Sprinkling pumpkin seeds on salad and soup provides more than just an extra crunch. They are a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, which research has shown to be important for the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Additionally, they contain magnesium, with evidence that the mineral can help bolster resistance to stress.

11. Chicken

Roast chicken with vegetables

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A roast chicken for Sunday lunch is always a great idea - but perhaps even more so when you discover its uplifting nutrients. The meat is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, of which there is evidence it is integral to production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Additionally, it contains vitamin B12, which has been found by research to also help ward off depression.

12. Beans

Bean stew

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Bean-based dishes are not only filling, but they also have uplifting benefits. They are plentiful in B vitamins, which research has shown can help boost the production of the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. What's more, there is evidence that zinc - which the pulse also contains in high amounts - is important in the treatment of depressive disorders.

13. Oysters


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They may be better known as a food that helps enhance sex drive, but oysters also serve up general mood-boosting benefits too. According to research, they contain more zinc than any other food, and there is evidence this important mineral is key to helping maintain levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.

14. Kale

Kale soup

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Dark leafy greens, such as kale, are an unlikely source of 'comfort' eating thanks to their luscious levels of B vitamins. Indeed, research has shown that nutrients like vitamin B12 and folate (vitamin B9) have a positive effect on stress, while low levels have been linked to depression.

15. Green tea

Green tea

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Suffering from a mid-afternoon lull? Make yourself a mug of green tea. The calming hot drink contains the amino acid L-theanine, which has been liked by research to lower levels of stress and may help with anxiety symptoms. On top of this, the compound - which is also found in black tea - can support sleep as well as memory, which will also certainly make you feel better.

16. Chia seeds

Chia seed pudding

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Chia seeds are a popular component of healthy breakfasts thanks to their high fibre content and ability to boost satiety. However, they come with another big perk due to their similarly generous concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Research has linked the latter nutrient to a marked improvement in symptoms of depression.

17. Matcha

Matcha latte

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Matcha has long been brewing as a go-to hot drink for those who want to enjoy a slower caffeine release - and the evidence suggests it may provide a feel-good boost too. One study showed that making a cuppa using the green powder led to a decrease in stress and anxiety, while also raising attention and memory.

18. Mushrooms

Roasted mushrooms

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Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D, which research has found to be key for the regulation of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. There is also evidence that those with low levels of the key nutrient are more at risk of depression. Mushrooms are one of the few food sources, and a study has shown that the vegetable is a really effective way to top up if it's grey skies outside.

19. Beef


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While you might be moving towards more of a plant-based diet, enjoying beef on occasion will do your mental health a lot of good according to science. The lean meat is rich in iron, which helps transport oxygen all around the body including the brain, and low levels of the mineral have been linked by research to symptoms of depression. A study showed that those with a deficiency had an increased risk of psychiatric disorders.

20. Avocado

Avocado on toast

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Avocado is a brunch obsession and it's indeed a great choice for getting your weekend off to a positive start. The fruit is rich in 'good' fats, which have been linked by research to lower anxiety levels in women. One study also found a boost in lutein, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory carotenoid, which has been linked to lower stress levels. 

21. Turmeric

Spice drawer

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As well as enhancing the flavour of dishes, turmeric can also boost your day. A study found that an anti-inflammatory compound in the golden spice, called curcumin, led to an antidepressant effect. What's more, research showed that it was effective at treating depression symptoms.

22. Sweet potato

Sweet potato wedges

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Sweet potato, which can be cooked up as wedges or mash, is one of the more nourishing carbs around. The root vegetable comes packed with vitamin B6, which research has linked to lower anxiety levels. Additionally, its high fibre content also stabilises blood sugar levels, with evidence showing that this can improve mood.

23. Olive oil

Olive oil

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The kitchen staple has long been associated with brain health - however as well as better memory and lower dementia risk, it can also lift your mood. Research has linked the condiment to lower stress levels, which are thought to be down to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids, with evidence revealing a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms.

24. Garlic

Garlic cloves

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Garlic may add delicious flavour to cooking, but it also packs a punch when it comes to mental wellbeing. One study found that the vegetable was able to aid the brain's levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Additionally, for women on their period - a time when mood swings are common - research has shown it may also reduce pain.

25. Sauerkraut


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As a probiotic food, sauerkraut - which is made from fermented raw cabbage - is known to aid gut health. As such, research has shown that those consuming more of these products reported lower levels of depression. There is evidence it does this by increasing the gut's ability to soak up mood-regulating minerals, such as magnesium and zinc.

26. Coffee


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Coffee is known to provide an efficient energy boost, and science has shown it can also elevate mood too. Indeed, research has revealed a link between consumption of the hot drink and a lower risk of depression. Similarly, there is evidence of a similar antidepressant effect experienced by women who regularly enjoyed a caffeine fix. Although, it's important to get the balance right - sipping on too much has been found by a study to increase anxiety levels.

27. Yoghurt

Greek yoghurt with fruit

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For a mood-boosting breakfast, yoghurt is a great start. The gut-friendly probiotic food contains the 'good' bacteria, Lactobacillus, which has been shown to have an uplifting effect. There is evidence that it lessens inflammation in the gut, which is thought to impact mental health, while one study indicated that it could potentially reverse depression.

28. Broccoli


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Good old broccoli is an unlikely ingredient to a mood-boosting meal. It contains antioxidants, which have been linked to improved mental health. Indeed, one study found that women going through menopause who consumed a diet rich in the compounds had lower levels of depression and anxiety.

29. Cinnamon

Cinnamon on porridge

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Start sprinkling cinnamon on your breakfast. The spice is known to be rich in antioxidants, which research has found may reduce inflammation in the brain that causes depression. This is because the compounds stabilise free radicals, which are molecules that cause cell damage and can lead to oxidative stress. 

30. Whole grains

Whole grain bread

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Swap your white bread for a loaf of whole grain. The latter is packed with fibre, which - alongside probiotic foods - is key to gut health and, in turn, plays an important role in mental wellbeing. Indeed, research has found a link between fibre intake and depression levels, noting a 5 per cent reduction in risk with each 5g increase in the macronutrient.

31. Oregano


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Rustle up oregano from your spice drawer, because its plentiful levels of polyphenols could be positive for the mind. These compounds are strong antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit the brain. Indeed, one study showed that people who consumed a polyphenol-packed diet for three months experienced a reduction in depression symptoms.

32. Red onion

Red onion

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Red onions provide crunch and flavour to a whole host of dishes, and you'd be wise to make them a regular on your shopping list thanks to their mood-enhancing properties. They are rich in plant compounds known as polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory properties that research has shown may be linked to a reduced risk of depression.

Lauren Clark

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. 

While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.