Good Mood Food

You’ve been feeling lethargic, uninterested, and wondering if it’s really all worth it. You find yourself irritable and snapping at your spouse, and you can’t seem to summon the energy to fix the fence outside. So you decide it’s finally time to talk to your doctor, bravely recounting to her the struggles of the past few months. You expect her to write you a prescription for the latest antidepressant, something to take the edge off. Instead, she tells you to eat more bananas.


As more physicians and psychologists are recognizing the connections between physical and mental health, nutrition has come to the forefront as an avenue of intervention. And when it comes to depression, the leading cause of disability in the U.S., doctors are increasingly asking patients to make adjustments to their diets.

As most of us in our increasingly mental health-savvy world know, serotonin has been consistently linked to depression. Basically, when serotonin levels drop, so do our moods and ability to handle stress.

Serotonin levels drop when an individual does not get enough tryptophan, an essential amino acid that does not occur naturally in the body – it comes from our food. If we’re not eating enough tryptophan-rich foods, we are prone to lower moods and higher anxiety – not a particularly fun combination.

So how do you get more tryptophan into your diet? Check out these foods that are rich in the mood-boosting amino acid:

  • Bananas
  • Cottage cheese
  • Brown rice
  • Avocado
  • Soy protein
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts

The mood-food connection is powerful. Start incorporating more of these foods into your diet and see if you notice a difference in your mindset and your interactions with the people around you. Or better yet, ask your spouse.

Ashley Solomon, Psy.D

I am a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness. Visit Dr. Solomon's body image blog,

4 thoughts on “Good Mood Food

  • October 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I didn’t know if your feeling lethargic or depressed you can eat a banana and it’ll help..At least its not more medication lol

    • October 18, 2010 at 7:52 am

      Just to clarify, it’s important to make these foods regular parts of your diet, not just a quick fix!

  • October 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Ashley, several people also take supplements containing tryptophan before bed to help with insomnia.

    Most doctors who recommend this supplement also suggest taking with a carbohydrate rich meal since this helps tryptophan reach the brain. The rising insulin levels secreted while consuming carbohydrates lowers the relative levels of the other amino acids that compete with tryptophan to cross the blood brain barrier.

    With food sources instead of supplements, it would also be a good idea to consume tryptophan rich food with carbohydrates.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.