Search IconSearch

The Connection Between Food and Your Mood

How to choose foods that will boost your mood

eggs and orange juice boost mood

There are so many great things about fall and winter: changing leaves, pumpkin patches, Christmas decorations and family gatherings.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But as the weather starts to turn cold and dreary, you may experience the winter blues. To help combat those feeling, try eating certain foods known to help boost your mood.

“The foods we eat not only affect our mood, but our sleep patterns and our energy levels,” says psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD. “And that can impact us throughout the entire day.”

How food can affect your mood

Studies have found that the change in seasons often leads to an increase in emotional eating, says Dr. Albers.

“In this study, individuals who feel blue during the winter and fall months, due to the short days, experience an increase in snacking, craving starchy foods and sugary foods, as well as eating more in the evenings,” she says.

Foods to avoid or cut down on during the winter months are:

  • Sugar.
  • Alcohol.
  • Starchy foods.
  • Processed foods.


Foods sweetened with sugar like soda and cookies, as well as flour-based foods like bread, crackers and baked goods might give you a quick energy boost, but their low nutritional value could leave you with low energy and in a down mood later on.

“If you’re someone who loves salty snacks, swap out the chips for spicy roasted chickpeas,” says Dr. Albers. “Not only are those going to give you a great crunch, but they also give you a great boost of nutrients.”

Foods that can boost your mood

There are plenty of foods that affect your mood in a positive way. Ease into it and you’ll see rewards.

“Too often we focus on removing or subtracting foods from our diet,” says Dr. Albers. “Think about additions, trying to add one food a day. Make it a goal to add one of these foods a day and over time, you’re going to see an improvement in your mood.”

Foods high in vitamin D

Work in foods rich in vitamin D like red meat (limit to less than 6 ounces per week), mushrooms, egg yolks, tuna, salmon and sardines. You should also look for items fortified in vitamin D like milk, yogurt and cereal.

“During the winter months, people who have more emotional eating have been shown to have lower levels of vitamin D, which is associated with more anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Albers.

Foods high in vitamin C

Oranges, mangoes, lemons, kiwi, broccoli, bell peppers and strawberries are great options if you’re hoping to increase your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C can help with anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

“One of the best things you can do to help your immune system and to boost your mood is to add foods that are high in vitamin C,” says Dr. Albers.

Foods high in protein

Get your protein fill with foods like beef, chicken, turkey and eggs.

“Those foods are linked to higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are brain chemicals that play an important role in our mood, our motivation and our concentration,” says Dr. Albers.

Vegan or vegetarian? Opt for chickpeas, lentils or tofu to get that much-needed protein fix.

Sweet potatoes

With comfort-food-laden holiday menus in your future, try subbing out white potatoes for sweet potatoes, which are a good source of vitamin A.

“Sweet potatoes contain fiber, which breaks down really slowly and can help your blood sugar,” says Dr. Albers. “This, in turn, helps to keep your cravings and emotional eating down.”

Sweet potatoes are also rich in magnesium, which has been shown to help lower anxiety levels.


Beets are a good bet, especially if you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

“Beets can lower your blood sugar,” says Dr. Albers. “Eating beets can also help lower your blood pressure in just a matter of a few hours.”


Get cracking on adding walnuts to your meals. Great for your cognitive function (your memory, attention and language), walnuts can also boost your mood.

A study in which participants were given a handful of walnuts for five days showed a significant reduction in appetite hunger and cravings for starchy and sugary foods.



Warm up with a hot cup of cocoa, says Dr. Albers.

“Not only is it soothing and sweet during the cold winter months,” she says. “But cocoa is also a great source of polyphenols.”

Polyphenols are very potent antioxidants, which help with your mood thanks to their anti-inflammatory effects. Polyphenols have been shown in many studies to boost your concentration levels and your focus.

Regardless of your diet during the winter, don’t be too hard on yourself, says Dr. Albers.

“As the holiday season approaches, move aside dieting. This is often stressful for people and instead focus on mindful eating,” says Dr. Albers. “This is slowing down, being in the moment, enjoying and savoring your food, instead of trying to stay away from certain foods.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Foods rich in vitamin E: broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, almonds, sunflower seeds, apricots, pepper and a bottle of oil
July 24, 2024/Nutrition
What Can Vitamin E Do for You?

The essential nutrient can benefit your immune system, eyes and skin while lowering disease risk

Cooked slices of seasoned zucchini
July 22, 2024/Nutrition
Is Zucchini Good for You?

Packed with fiber and other nutrients, zucchini can boost your immune system and help you cut calories

Person in an apron, kitchen carrying a loaf of sour dough bread on tray
July 12, 2024/Nutrition
Is Sourdough Bread Healthy for You?

Sourdough can be healthier than some other bread choices — but that doesn’t give it ‘health food’ status

Bowl of horseradish
July 8, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Horseradish

This spicy root helps fight cancer, bacteria and inflammation

An array of meatless foods in different vessels on table
July 5, 2024/Nutrition
Going Vegan 101: A Beginner’s Guide

The meatless, plant-based eating style has countless tasty and healthy options

Hands cupping bowl of greens, chickpeas, whole figs, halved and tofu
July 3, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Figs

Packed with fiber and nutrients, this flower — yep, flower! — is great for your blood sugar, heart and gut

Assorted whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts
June 21, 2024/Nutrition
Eating for Energy: Foods That Fight Fatigue

What’s on your plate can either help power you through your day or put you in nap mode

Person standing in front of oversized nutrition label, reading it
June 19, 2024/Nutrition
What Can You Learn From a Nutrition Label?

Information on serving size, calories and nutrients can help you make healthy choices

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims