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4 Dietary Habits That Can Negatively Impact Mood

You are what you eat, the saying goes. No more true is this statement than as related to food and mood. Moods are impacted by a variety of environmental factors that include, importantly, dietary habits and food intake. Research has shown that dietary habits can trigger chemical and physiological changes within the brain that can affect our mood and emotions. Certain types of foods or dietary patterns, for example, can predispose us to feeling more symptoms of depression or anxiety. These 4 dietary habits can negatively impact your mood but, with small changes, you can take the necessary steps to avoid singing the blues [i].


1. Poorly balanced diets

Diets that lack balance, such as those that involve binge eating or skipping meals with large gaps between meals can contribute to spikes in energy level and blood glucose. This can cause increased cravings due to lack of consistent energy intake throughout the day. Aim to eat balanced meals spread evenly throughout the day and include a balance of lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats and fruits and vegetables.


2. Refined carbohydrates or lower carbohydrate diets

Diets that include more refined carbohydrates can cause larger fluctuations in insulin levels. This in turn can affect other hormones that stimulate appetite and emotion in the brain affecting mood and energy level. Stick with unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains and legumes. Those who omit carbohydrate from their diets can also experience more severe mood changes and fatigue due to the lack of glucose, which is the primary source of fuel for the brain. Whole grain, unrefined carbohydrates are an important component of a balanced diet.


3. High fat diets

High fat diets with frequent consumption of greasy, fried fatty foods can cause a person to feel less energetic. Higher fat meals sit in the stomach longer and delay the emptying of the stomach after a meal. This can lead to more heartburn and indigestion along with a sluggish digestive system. These meals are also often associated with feelings of guilt resulting in a negative effect on mood. Try to lower your fat intake to no more than 25-35% of your daily calories and always include healthy unsaturated fats such as those found in fish, nuts, and plant oils like olive and canola oil.


4. Lack of proper nutrients that are healthy for the brain

Poorly balanced diets that consist of mainly processed and convenience foods do not provide the proper variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, bean, and nuts which are important sources of micronutrients and phytonutrients that are important for brain health and improved mood.  Aim to limit intake of processed foods and include a variety of colorful plant foods to ensure you are getting a good balance of brain-boosting nutrients.



[i] Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun;62(6):617-27.
Jessica Iannotta, MS, RD, CSO, CDN

Jessica is a registered dietitian and certified specialist in oncology nutrition (CSO). She studied nutrition at Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. She obtained her Master's degree through the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Jessica has worked in inpatient and outpatient oncology settings since 2001 in the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Jessica is in charge of all operations including clinical and culinary operations ranging from menu development to evidence-based website content, relationships with registered dietitians and social workers and developing processes and protocols for intake, management and outcomes analysis of patients.

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