Food and mood. Funny how they’re only one letter apart. Perhaps this is because of their potential influence on one another. Food has long been associated with our mood or emotional well-being. Food is often used for comfort, celebration, and socialization.

A growing field of research is studying how diet and nutrition affect mental well-being. Findings are non-conclusive at this point, but many studies are showing that diet can have a positive or negative impact on one’s mood.

What Foods Might Make Us Happy?

Many studies are showing a positive relationship between food and mood – especially when a whole foods approach is used. For example, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins stabilizes mood. A recent meta-analysis of 34 controlled clinical trials published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews found that probiotics (good bacteria found in foods like yogurt) were beneficial for depression and anxiety. Another study in the American Journal of Public Health, showed that happiness experienced by people eating eight portions of fruits and vegetables a day was equal to the joy felt by an unemployed person finding a job. This is quite intriguing!

What Foods Might Make Us Sad?

Conversely, there are several studies showing that certain types of foods can negatively impact our mood. A 12-year study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found an association between depression and an inflammatory diet pattern (an intake rich in sugar-sweetened soft drinks, refined grains, and red meat). A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate less vitamin D-rich foods, such a fortified nonfat dairy products and dairy alternatives, had a higher risk of depression than women who had more vitamin D in their diets. Research from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study also showed an association between the incidence of depressive symptoms and diets containing high amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars.

Digesting the Food-Mood Connection

Regarding mood, there is a distinct difference between the types of foods that impart a positive impact versus a negative impact. Foods that have shown mood-lowering qualities include sugar, refined grains, and red meat. On the contrary, foods that have demonstrated mood-boosting qualities include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. These heart-healthy and potential mood-boosting foods fall right in line with the Pritikin Eating Plan. For example, Pritikin Foods’ Bison Chili with Brown Rice and Vegetables contains lean protein, a whole grain, vegetables, and no added sugar! It can be challenging to find convenient frozen meals that include these healthy characteristics at the grocery store, so if you haven’t already, check out for even more healthy options!

Even if research never irrefutably confirms that a healthy eating plan can positively impact our mood, there are still many other reasons to do so. The Pritikin Eating Plan has documented success of reducing the overall risk of many chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. These chronic conditions are often associated with poorer mental health, so it could be a win-win to eat healthily.