Have you ever noticed how mood can fluctuate throughout the transition of seasons or even just throughout a single day? While various factors contribute to our well-being, one aspect that often goes unnoticed is the significant influence our diet has on our mood and mental health. The adage “you are what you eat” holds a profound truth when it comes to the intricate relationship between our food choices and our emotional well-being.
In recent years, researchers and healthcare professionals have been delving into the impact of nutrition on mental health. The emerging field of nutritional psychiatry highlights the connection between our gut and our brain, revealing the interplay between food and mood.
How Diet Directly Influences Our Mental Well-being
Traditionally, food has been primarily associated with its physical benefits, providing nourishment, energy and sustaining daily functions of the body. The food we consume plays a vital role in influencing neurotransmitters, hormones, and inflammation in our bodies, which ultimately influence our mental state at baseline.
Our brain, often considered the command center of our body, relies on a complex web of chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters to regulate our mood and emotions. Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are just a few examples of these neurotransmitters that can significantly impact our mental health. Surprisingly, the production and regulation of these neurotransmitters are influenced by the variety of nutrients present in the food we consume on a day-to-day basis.
The Gut-Brain Connection
Beyond neurotransmitters, the gut microbiome, a collection of microorganisms residing in our digestive system, plays a crucial role in our mental well-being. These tiny microbes not only aid in healthy and regular digestion but also communicate with the brain through the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional connection that influences our emotions, cognitive function and overall state of mind. The composition of the gut microbiome is heavily influenced by our dietary choices, with certain foods promoting a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria while others can disrupt this fragile equilibrium.
By adopting a holistic approach that combines appropriate medical interventions with a nutrient-rich diet, we can potentially boost our mental resilience and even alleviate symptoms of certain mental health disorders. Read below to explore how Café Gratitude supports the mission to serve food for improved mood.
Top 8 Mood-Boosting Foods
When it comes to boosting mood, certain foods have the power to positively influence our brain chemistry. Incorporating these mood-boosting foods into your diet can help uplift your spirits and promote a healthier, happier frame of mind. Here are the top 8 foods you can find at Café Gratitude known for their mood-enhancing properties:
1. Dark Chocolate
Having a few small pieces of dark chocolate a day can release endorphins and improve serotonin levels, leading to feelings of pleasure and happiness.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: “I Am Joy” Almond Joy or “I Am Delighted” Almond Butter Square
Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries can combat oxidative stress, which is linked to mood disorders.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: “I Am Vivid” Açai Superfood Bowl or “I Am Lively” Belgian Oat Waffles & Berries
3. Leafy Greens
Vegetables such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard are high in folate, which plays a vital role in the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which contribute to mood regulation.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: "I am Resourceful" Shaved Kale & Butternut Salad or "I am Humble" Indian Curry Bowl
4. Nuts & Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as magnesium and zinc, which are important for brain health and mood stabilization.
TRY AT CAFE GRATITUDE: “I Am Mighty” Superfood Energy Nut & Seed Bar or “I Am Cleansed” Pumfu Greek Salad
Bananas contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that plays a crucial role in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation. Increasing serotonin levels can help improve mood, promote relaxation and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: “I Am Gentle” Banana Bread or “I Am Glowing” Smoothie
The active compound in turmeric, called curcumin, has been found to have antidepressant effects by boosting brain-derived neutrotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein linked to mood regulation.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: “I Am Golden” Turmeric Latte or “I Am Replenished” Vitality Powerhouse Shot
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are rich in folate, magnesium and protein, which are essential for maintaining stable moods and supporting neurotransmitter function.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: “I Am Karmic” Hummus Platter or “I Am Welcoming” Mediterranean Mezze Platter
8. Green Tea
L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Enjoy a cup of green tea to reap its mood-boosting benefits.
TRY AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE: “I Am Vibrant” Matcha Latté
At Café Gratitude, we explore the intricate relationship between food intake and mental health, delving into the science behind how nutrients affect cognitive function. Whether you are seeking ways to improve your psyche, manage stress and/or anxiety or support a loved one’s mental well-being, visiting Café Gratitude will help you discover the positive, serotonergic effects foods can have and will ultimately help you harness the power of nutrition for a healthier mind and soul.
Written by Jayne Pinsky, RD
- Appleton J. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2018;17(4):28-32.
- Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Ann Gastroenterol. 2015;28(2):203-209.
- Huang Q, Liu H, Suzuki K, Ma S, Liu C. Linking What We Eat to Our Mood: A Review of Diet, Dietary Antioxidants, and Depression. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(9):376. Published 2019 Sep 5. doi:10.3390/antiox8090376
- Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Mo Med. 2015;112(2):111-115.