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The Connection Between Food and Your Mood


When you think of the foods you eat, you probably make selections based upon flavor. But did you know that certain foods can improve your mood?

It turns out that our diets can have a profound effect on our mental health. However, the effects of specific foods don’t remain the same throughout a lifetime.

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According to a new study published in Nutritional Neuroscience, the effects of food on mental status changes as our brains mature. This means dietary components that support emotional well-being in young adults may not work the same in older adults.

Young and Mature Adults Have Different Food Needs to Support Mental Health

The study analyzed dietary and exercise patterns in young adults (18-29 years of age) and mature adults (30 years and older). All of the participants completed a Food-Mood Questionnaire, which included questions on food groups that are associated with emotional well-being.

In young adults, eating red and white meat appeared to promote a good mood. This is likely due to the effect that meat has on increasing the concentration of “feel good” chemicals — such as serotonin and dopamine — in the brain. Regular exercise also contributed to the build-up of these neurotransmitters.

On the other hand, young adults who ate meat less than three times a week and exercised less than three times a week showed significantly more mental distress. These same connections were not seen in older adults.

In those aged 30 and older, mood was much more reliant on foods that increase the availability of antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables. It also appeared important that the more mature adults avoid foods that activate their sympathetic nervous system, such as coffee and refined carbohydrates.

Choose the Right Foods for a Better Mood

Study author, Lina Begdache, notes that there are several takeaways from this analysis:

  • Dietary choices have a different affect on mental health in young adults versus mature adults.
  • In young adults, regular meat consumption leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood. Regular exercise leads to build-up of these and other neurotransmitters as well.
  • In mature adults, mood seems to be more sensitive to regular consumption of an antioxidant-rich diet. Simply put, free radical formation increases with age which, in turn, increases the risk of mental distress.
  • Our ability to regulate stress decreases as we age. So if we consume foods like coffee and high-glycemic carbs that activate the stress response, we are more likely to experience mental distress.


Your mood depends on the food you eat, and what you should eat changes as you get older: Young adults and mature adults require different food to improve their mental health. News Release. Binghamton University. Dec 2017.

Begdache L, et al. Assessment of dietary factors, dietary practices and exercise on mental distress in young adults versus matured adults: A cross-sectional study. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Dec 11:1-11.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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