How diet affects the mood

19 Jun 2022
Did you know your diet not only affects your body, but also has a profound impact on your mind? Over the years, research has indicated that a diet rich in healthy fats, magnesium, folate, and zinc has significant effects on mood. 

More studies have since shown that following a certain diet not only affects your mood, but can even combat symptoms of depression. 
A new study (1) looked at a group of almost 7,000 adults over two years who kept to a strict Mediterranean Diet.  

The results showed that there was a significant decrease in depressive symptoms and that sticking to an eating plan, such as the Mediterranean Diet, could help combat depression.

So, what exactly is the Mediterranean Diet? Basically, it’s a dietary plan which includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes with some poultry, fish, eggs and dairy and occasional red meat. 

And how does it influence our mood exactly? Previous studies (2) have shown that the Mediterranean Diet can reduce inflammation in the body, which has been linked to depression and mood disorders. 

Randomised trials of anti-inflammatory drugs found that nutritional components such as polyphenols and polyunsaturated fats, present in the Mediterranean Diet may also have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, which in turn, can reduce depressive symptoms. 

And it’s not only reducing inflammation in the body that makes us feel generally happier, but the friendly bacteria in our tummies known as our gut microbiome, which also affects our mood. 

According to research (3), major depression is associated with alterations in the gut microbiome, resulting from a diet low in fibre, high in saturated fats, refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, which is pretty much the opposite of what the Mediterranean Diet follows. 

If we simply follow the Mediterranean Diet is that enough to keep the blues at bay? Well, not necessarily, you may need extra help along the way, such as taking supplements. 

Another study (4) showed that taking probiotics, which target the gut microbiome, may reduce symptoms of depression and improve mood. 

The research showed that the gut has a “second brain” as it produces similar neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, which all play a role in regulating the mood. 

It’s estimated that 90% of serotonin (often referred to as the happiness hormone) is made in the digestive tract, which is why when we’re often stressed, we can suffer from digestive issues. And vice versa, if you have IBS or Crohn’s disease it can also lead to mood disorders, anxiety and depression. 

Another study (5) also showed that participants who took probiotics daily for six weeks noted a positive effect on mood and sleep.  

So, if you want to improve your mood through food, take note: eat plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, legumes and with some dairy, eggs and poultry and a little red meat now and again. 

Faye James
Faye is an Accredited Nutritionist and Member of Nutrition Council Australia, follow her on Instagram @fayecelinejames

1.    PLOS ONE: Contribution of cardio-vascular risk factors to depressive status in the PREDIMED-PLUS Trial. A cross-sectional and a 2-year longitudinal study, 2022
2.    Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing, 2020
3.    Cryan JF, Dinan TG Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nat Rev Neurosci2012;13:701 2. doi:10.1038/nrn3346 pmid:22968153
4.    Liu RT, Walsh RFL, Sheehan AE Prebiotics and probiotics for depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials. Neurosci Biobehav Rev2019;102:13-23. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.03.023 pmid:31004628
5.    Effects of Probiotics on Cognitive Reactivity, Mood, and Sleep Quality
Angela Marotta,1,2,* Eleonora Sarno,3,† Antonio Del Casale,4,† Marco Pane,5 Luca Mogna,5 Angela Amoruso,5 Giovanna E. Felis,3 and Mirta Fiorio1,*