Are you feeling down, irritable, or anxious lately? It may be worth taking a closer look at your diet. While certain foods can boost your mood and energy, others can have the opposite effect, leading to mood swings, crashes, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Here are five bad-mood foods you may want to avoid or limit in your diet:
1. Sugar and refined carbohydrates
We all love the sweet taste of sugar, but it’s not doing us any favors when it comes to our mood. Studies have linked high sugar consumption to an increased risk of depression and anxiety (1). Sugar can also cause energy crashes, mood swings, and irritability by disrupting our blood sugar levels.
The same goes for refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and pastries. These foods are quickly digested and absorbed, leading to a rapid rise in blood sugar followed by a crash, leaving you feeling tired and moody.
Instead of sugary treats and refined carbs, opt for complex carbohydrates that release energy slowly, such as vegetables, legumes like chickpeas and lentils, and grains like buckwheat and sorghum. These foods provide a steady stream of glucose to the brain and can help stabilize your mood and energy levels.
2. Processed foods and additives
Processed foods are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, but they can also contain a range of additives that may affect your mood. For example, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and emulsifiers have been linked to hyperactivity, irritability, and other behavioral problems (2,3).
Processed meats, such as hot dogs and packaged lunchmeat, are known to contain high levels of sodium, nitrites, and nitrates, which have been linked to an increased risk of several health conditions, including anxiety. One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that consumption of processed meat was positively associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety and depression (4).
To minimize your intake of processed foods and additives, choose whole, unpackaged, and unprocessed foods as much as possible. If you do buy packaged foods, read the labels carefully and avoid products with a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Many of us rely on our morning coffee or tea to kick-start our day, but too much caffeine can backfire when it comes to mood. While caffeine can improve focus, alertness, and even mood in moderate amounts, it can also cause anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness when consumed in excess (5).
Caffeine can also interfere with sleep quality and duration, which can in turn affect your mood and energy levels the next day (6).
If you’re sensitive to caffeine or notice that it worsens your mood, consider cutting back or switching to decaf or herbal tea. Green tea is a good alternative that contains a moderate amount of caffeine and also has mood-boosting and antioxidant properties (7).
Alcohol is a depressant that can initially make you feel relaxed and happy, but it can also have a negative impact on your mood in the long run. Heavy drinking has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems (8).
Alcohol can also interfere with sleep quality and contribute to dehydration, both of which can worsen your mood and energy levels. To minimize the negative effects of alcohol on your mood, it’s important to drink in moderation and stay hydrated.
5. Fried foods
Foods that are high in overly processed or excessively heated oils and trans fats, such as fast food, fried foods, and many processed snacks, can contribute to mood swings and fatigue. These foods can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, leading to impaired mood regulation.
Instead of high-fat and fried foods, opt for healthier sources of fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish. These foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve mood and cognitive function (9).
In conclusion, what you eat can have a significant impact on your mood and overall well-being. By avoiding or limiting these bad-mood foods and incorporating more mood-boosting foods into your diet, you can support your mental and physical health and feel your best.
1. Sánchez-Villegas A, Martínez-González MA, et al. Added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, dietary carbohydrate index and depression risk in the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project. Br J Nutr. 2018 Jan;119(2):211-221. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517003361. Epub 2017 Dec 22
2. Arnold, Lofthouse, et al. Artificial Food Colors and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Symptoms: Conclusions to Dye for. Neurotherapeutics. 2012 Jul; 9(3): 599–609. Published online 2012 Aug 3. doi: 10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x
3. Holder, Peters, et al. Dietary emulsifiers consumption alters anxiety-like and social-related behaviors in mice in a sex-dependent manner. Sci Rep. 2019; 9: 172. Published online 2019 Jan 17. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36890-3
4. Li, Lv, Wei, et al. Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jul;253:373-382. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.04.020. Epub 2017 Apr 11.
5. Richards, Smith. Caffeine consumption and self-assessed stress, anxiety, and depression in secondary school children. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Dec; 29(12): 1236–1247. doi: 10.1177/0269881115612404
6. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-1200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
7. Dietz, Dekker. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(19):2876-2905. doi: 10.2174/1381612823666170105151800.
8. Kuria, Ndetei, et al. The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. ISRN Psychiatry. 2012; 2012: 482802. Published online 2012 Jan 26. doi: 10.5402/2012/482802
9. Grosso G, Pajak A, Marventano S, et al. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of depressive disorders: a comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. PLoS One. 2014;9(5):e96905. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096905