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Need a lift? These foods can brighten your mood.

Do you ever find yourself standing in front of an open refrigerator or cupboard when you’re feeling bored or blue, and not even the least bit hungry? You’re not alone if you turn to food when you’re feeling out of sorts. There’s good reason why they call certain foods “comfort food.” But sometimes they can actually make you feel worse in the long run. 

But the good news is that there are other foods that can actually elevate your mood. It’s important to know which foods can give you a lift — and which can bring you down. 

What are some “feel good” foods?*

Here are some foods that can perk you up:


Food and drinks that are high in “good” bacteria can actually make you feel better. They’ve been shown to help with anxiety and stress and improve your outlook on life. So reach for some kombucha or yogurt with live cultures.

Mediterranean foods **

A recent study showed that people with moderate to severe depression felt better after eating a Mediterranean-style diet. This means a lot of vegetables, good fats like olive oil, fruits and lean meat. The more the study participants improved their diets, the more their depression waned.

Whole foods **

Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. These unprocessed foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals. And they can help your brain fight off stress. So reach for things like vegetables, grass-fed beef, nuts and fruits. 

But watch out for these foods 

Sure, they might fall into the comfort food category, but some foods can create the opposite effect of feel good foods. They include: 


When you eat sweets, your blood sugar spikes ... and then drops like a ton of bricks. Too much sugar in your diet can lead to mood swings, low energy and the blues. When you crave something sweet, reach for some fruit. 

Processed foods *** 

If foods have been made to last on a shelf, they’ll probably be hard on your body and brain. Many processed foods lack nutritional value. And they’ve been linked to mental health issues like depression. But some processing — like the freezing of fruits and vegetables — is okay. 

So, which items should you avoid? Limit heavily processed foods that contain a lot of chemicals, salts, sugar or fat. Your body needs nutrients. And many processed foods will leave you feeling stuffed while your body and brain starve. 

So, is happiness all about diet? No way! 

Diet is an important part of your well-being. But it’s your overall lifestyle that makes you a more satisfied and joyful person. So be sure your life includes the mainstays of happiness like:

  • Time with friends and loved ones
  • Enough sleep and rest
  • Activities you enjoy
  • Healthy doses of fun   


  • * Selhub, Eva. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed June 2018. 
  • ** Lugavere, Max. How your next meal could help fight depression and stress. CNN. Accessed June 2018. 
  • *** Jacka, Felice et al. A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial). BMC Medicine. Accessed May 2018. 

Need help with creating and sticking with healthy eating habits? The Attain by AetnaSM app gives you tips, tools and points for making healthier and more mindful choices, like choosing more nutritious foods. Download the AttainSM app today in the App Store. Already using the app? Head over to the “Actions” tab in the app and start building healthy habits today.

This material provides a general overview of the topic. Health information is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a therapist, physician or other health care professional. Contact a health care professional with any questions or concerns about specific health care needs.