Can Food Boost Your Mood?

We've all eaten chocolate to pick us up when we're feeling low or felt a bit irritable after eating too much junk food. So what we eat must affect our mood, right? 

Given that your brain is working overtime, 24/7, to keep your body running smoothly, you need to feed it with the right fuel (you could even say... Human Fuel, couldn’t you?). Eating loads of processed junk filled with refined sugars and artificial stuff isn’t going to do your brain any wonders. Eating a balanced and varied diet packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrients will – funnily enough – have the opposite effect.

What we eat and how we feel are more closely linked than you might realise. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, you can’t put something inside your body and expect to have no impact other than filling you up.

In the case of food, endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine are all released when we eat certain foods, and they can all have a big impact on how you’re feeling.


Endorphins are released in times of pain, stress, and anxiety, to ease symptoms and boost pleasure[1]. They are also responsible for states of pleasure such as being in love and the feeling better known as the ‘runners high’, (it's why you might get that 'second wind' when exercising). We create endorphins naturally in our body, and more are released when we eat particular foods[2]. For example, eating dark chocolate releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, the body’s natural anti-depressants.

One interesting food to look at is chillies. The capsaicin in chillies, which makes them hot, causes the brain to think we’re actually in pain and thus releases more mood-boosting endorphins. [3].

Therefore, particular foods that cause our body to release endorphins can cause mood-boosting effects. So there is some truth behind the idea that chocolate makes us happy; although unfortunately for us, the effects are thought to be short-lived[4].

How serotonin can help boost your mood

Another is serotonin which helps to regulate moods, amongst other important roles. It’s created from the amino acid tryptophan, which we get from our diet. Although we can’t get serotonin directly from food, we can get the amino acid needed, most commonly from nuts, cheese, red meat, and other protein-rich foods.

Most of the serotonin is released from the nervous system of the intestines and travels to the brain. It’s been shown that a healthy gut microbiome, the ‘good’ bacteria that live in our intestines, is linked to the increased production of serotonin[5]. So make sure to have a good intake of soluble fibre from foods like oats, beans, lentils, and fruit.

How to raise your dopamine levels

Now to dopamine. Dopamine has several roles, including being involved in our emotional responses. Our body uses the amino acid tyrosine to create the hormone.

One interesting ingredient to consider is curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric, which has been found to increase levels of dopamine and has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory qualities that help with diabetes [6].

Incidentally, curcumin can be found inside Huel Complete Protein.

Can high-Glycemic Index foods help improve your mood?

Glycemic index (GI) is the assortment of carbohydrates in foods and the speed at which they are digested, absorbed, metabolised; the glycemic load is the percentage of diet that contains refined carbohydrates and sugars. Therefore, if we consume meals that contain more low GI foods, such as oats, brown rice, and wholegrain pasta, compared to high GI foods, are great for sustained energy and better psychological wellbeing (a.k.a. mood)[7]. They’re digested slowly which helps to maintain concentration levels and can even improve cognitive thinking[8].

On paper, sugary foods like cakes and sweets might sound like a great idea for when you're down in the dumps, but these high-GI foods can lead to crashes in energy and eventually end up making you feel tired. Unfortunately, and rather cruelly, these are normally the foods you crave the most when wanting to boost your mood. You may feel a sudden spike in energy, but it soon dips. 

Make sure you're getting enough nutrients

There are several essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals we need to stay healthy, and some of these have an important role in brain function.

  • Magnesium plays a small role in brain health, although the main job is energy regulation and muscle and nerve function. It’s thought to help with stress and anxiety by increasing levels of some other neurotransmitters[9]. You can top up your magnesium levels by eating foods such as kale, spinach, and seeds.
  • Choline also plays a role in brain health. Foods rich in choline are typically eggs, salmon and beef.
  • Chromium is another key mineral which is involved in the production of serotonin. Broccoli and potatoes are high in chromium, along with wholegrain foods such as brown rice and oats.
  • Omega-3s are essential fats that we need in our diet, and a good intake of certain omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce anxiety and stress[10]. Great sources of omega-3 include oily fish, marine algae, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Stay hydrated

We’re used to hearing ‘eight glasses a day’, but staying hydrated is important for our body and mood.

Keeping regularly topped up with fluids helps with concentration. Water is especially great as it helps to deliver nutrients to the brain, aiding memory retention, focus, and our mood[11].

Can Huel boost your mood? 

If you've read all that and think you might need a hand getting all that mood-boosting goodness into your diet, Huel is here to help. Huel contains all 26 essential vitamins and minerals, including choline, with low-GI carbs, essential omega-3s, plant-based protein, and low sugar. Perfect for when you want to make sure you’re eating the top quality nutrition you need and enjoying the mood-boosting qualities.

Creating healthy habits is one way to effectively boost your mood – by getting into a healthy routine with your diet, you're ensuring that you consume the best-quality foods, and supporting your psychological wellbeing at the same time.


  1. PubMed. Biochemistry, Endorphin. 2020. Available from:
  2. PubMed. The effects of nutrients on mood. 1999. Available from:
  3. PubMed. Acute Effects of Capsaicin on Proopioimelanocortin mRNA Levels. 2012. Available from:
  4. PubMed. Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis. Available from: 2006.
  5. PubMed. Immediate effects of chocolate on experimentally induced mood states. 2007. Available from:
  6. PubMed. Curcumin modulates dopaminergic receptor, CREB, and phospholipase c gene expression in the cerebral cortex. 2010. Available from:
  7. Bmj. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing. 2020. Available from:
  8. PubMed. The Influence of Glycemic Index on Cognitive Functioning: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. 2014. Available from:
  9. PubMed. The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress. 2017. Available from:
  10. PubMed. Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety. 2018. Available from:
  11. PubMed. Water, Hydration and Health. 2011. Available from:


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