9 Foods to Boost Your Mood | achs.edu

Jan 15, 2014 12:10:00 PM | holistic nutrition 9 Foods to Boost Your Mood | achs.edu

Mood boosting foods are all the rage. Check out our favorites.

food for depressionUgh. January in the Pacific Northwest is enough to give anyone the blues! The sun goes missing for months at a time and have you heard about “Blue Monday” AKA “The Most Depressing Day of the Year?” Some argue this bleak day falls on the first Monday after the holidays and New Year’s, while others claim it’s the third Monday in January (which would be January 20, 2014).[1]Whether or not you buy the Blue Monday hype, returning to our daily routines without any excuse to eat gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie—all while smack in the middle of the dark and dreary days of winter—can certainly have an affect on our mood! Since most of us use January to kick-start our healthy living goals for the new year, what are the best foods to fight “Blue Monday” and the winter blahs? Refocus on holistic nutrition with my top 9 foods to boost your mood!

1. Asparagus

We know green vegetables are good for us (you know I love kale! but in winter it’s hard to get up the same enthusiasm for kale smoothies and arugula salads as I have the rest of the year. Plus, my acupuncturist tells me its good to eat cooked vegetables in the winter. Something about balancing my chi. If you’re feeling low this winter, it’s possible you have a folic acid deficiency. Give asparagus a try! Each cup has 70 mcg of folate[2] ( folic acid or B9), which also has the added benefit of helping other mood-boosting nutrients (like vitamin D) function in your body! Eat asparagus the day you buy it for highest nutrient values and try it lightly steamed or sautéed. Asparagus is on the EWG’s clean fifteen list, so its ok to buy conventional if organic is not available. [3] Also, if you notice the asparagus smell in your urine after eating, you can blame your genes![4]  

wild salmon2. Wild Salmon

Craving some salmon sashimi? Great! Wild salmon (pictured right) is high in vitamin B3, Omega-3 Fatty acids, and vitamin D—all key nutrients to help keep you bright, shiny, and smiling in the New Year.[5]  Always choose wild salmon for the highest omega-3’s, low mercury, and best eco-rating.[6] Farmed salmon may have higher levels of omega-6’s – which cause inflammation in the body![7] Note that some sources are reporting radiation found in Alaskan salmon from the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan.[8] Keep an eye on news about radiation levels. We may all need to switch to Atlantic sardines (or chia seeds!) for our omega-3s if this keeps up. 

3. Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are high in B3 Niacin, folic acid, and B1 Thiamin, so go ahead and whip up a nice winter chili or a yummy kidney bean casserole for a nice dose of true holistic comfort food!  Soak your beans overnight before cooking to help avoid generating gas. 

Bitter Orange4. Oranges

When we think of oranges, vitamin C and “immunity booster” comes to mind. Yet, there’s more to this tropical fruit! Packed with vitamin B5 and phosphorus (a mood-boosting mineral!), oranges can support you on an emotional level as well. So next time you’re sick or sad, make sure to stock up on both tissues and oranges!  Be sure to choose certified organic, conventionally farmed oranges can be doused in some pretty nasty pesticides.

5. Avocados

Guacamole lovers rejoice! Like kidney beans, avocados are high in vitamin B1. However, they also contain vitamin B5 pantothenic acid, another mood boosting B vitamin! Time to schedule a mid-winter fiesta? Yes, please! Avocados are on the EWG’s clean fifteen list, so its ok to buy conventional if organic is not available.[9]

chocolate for depression6. Dark Chocolate

Cocoa powder is rich in antioxidants—even more so than organic red wine! Cocoa (pictured right) also contains flavonoids (procyanidins and epicatechins). Studies have shown that flavonoids can reduce your blood pressure, possibly helping to perk up your mood! So if you’re feeling the effects of Blue Monday, don’t feel too guilty about feeding that cocoa craving with organic dark chocolate! Just be sure to choose chocolate that’s fair trade and at least 70% cacao. If you ever happen to be in Kauai, don’t miss the chocolate tour at Steelgrass Farm. I’m convinced that Kauai is one of the few places I could live on the 100-mile diet, since I could get chocolate and coffee!

7. Kelp

Kelp is high in iodine, which can help support healthy thyroid function—and a healthy thyroid supports both your mood and energy levels! According to one of my favorite books, the World’s Healthiest Foods[10], dried dulse provides 500% of your daily iodine levels! You can now find dried seaweed snacks at many stores, and they’re an ideal replacement for salty potato chips when you get a salt craving! Kelp also contains that mood-wonderful mineral, phosphorus, as well as vitamin K which can support your vitality!  Remember that source is important for kelp, as is true for all sea vegetables. Make sure yours is harvested from an environmentally pristine area (if such a place exists).

legumes for mood8. Legumes

Legumes are loaded with nutrients to help turn that frown upside down! Adzuki and small red beans are packed with flavonoids. Legumes are also delicious sources of B-complex vitamins (B5 and B1), phosphorus, and vitamin D!  Or you could always try weaving together a Balinese spiritual offering made from legumes and grains (like the one pictured right) to kinesthetically lift your spirits! Want to learn more about Balinese wellness? Consider joining us in Indonesia in May 2014!

9. Greek Yogurt

Opa! Greek yogurt is packed with protein, helping you keep your energy up for longer. It is also a good source of phosphorus. Additionally, just like salmon, Greek yogurt is also high in vitamin D.[11] A recent study showed that vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with depression.[12] Since it can be difficult to obtain vitamin D through food, Greek yogurt is a wonderful helper for those of us who don’t see the sun all that often (I’m looking at you, Portland, Oregon!). My favorite snack is to mix a cup of organic Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of organic high quality cocoa powder and some stevia. Healthy chocolate pudding! I’m also a huge fan of Tzatziki (I became addicted during our study abroad Summer School in the Greek Islands.)

Which one of these foods will you be cooking with this winter? Let us know in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning more about how food can affect your body, health, and wellness, click the button below for free offers, eBooks, and much more! Then check out the American College of Healthcare Sciences accredited online programs in holistic health!

achs holistic nutrition request more information

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.


[1] Huffpost Healthy Living (2014, January 6). Blue Monday: Is January 6 really the most depressing day of the year? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/06/blue-monday-january-6-most-depressing-day_n_4548954.html

[2] National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

[3] Environmental Working Group, Executive Summary. (2013). EWG’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

[4] Monell Chemical Senses Center (2010, September 28). Genetic differences in sense of smell identified through asparagus urine odor. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100928111231.htm

[6] I like the EDF seafood selector here: Environmental Defense Fund. (2013). EDF Seafood Selector: Salmon. Retrieved from http://seafood.edf.org/salmon

[7] There are lots of online resources discussing the virtues of wild versus farmed salmon, I like: Sisson, M. (2008, September 12). Salmon: Factory farm vs. wild [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/salmon-factory-farm-vs-wild/#axzz2qKPx3HZz

[8] WashingtonsBlog. (2013, August 26). Is Fukushima radiation contaminating tuna, salmon and herring on the west coast of North America? [Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/08/is-fukushima-irradiating-tuna-salmon-and-herring-on-the-west-coast-of-north-america.html

[9] Environmental Working Group, Executive Summary. (2013). EWG’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

[10] Mateljan, G. (2007). World’s healthiest foods: essential guide for the healthiest way of eating. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=135

[11] United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. (2014) USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26: Basic Report 01256, Yougurt, Greek, plain, nonfat. Retrieved from: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/216?qlookup=01256&max=25&man=&lfacet=&new=1

Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Written By: Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Dorene is the Founding President of the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS). She has over 45 years of clinical teaching and lecturing experience in aromatherapy and other holistic health subjects. She has presented papers on essential oils and clinical aromatherapy at the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades Annual Conference (IFEAT) in California, USA; the Aroma Environment Association of Japan (AEAJ) in Tokyo, Japan; the Asian Aroma Ingredients Congress (AAIC) and Expo in Bali, Indonesia; the International Center of Advanced Aromatherapy (ICAA) at the WonGwang Digital University in Seoul, Korea; as well as the AAIC Expo in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Dorene is a founding member of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) and served as its chair until 2023. Dorene is also involved in the distance education community and has served as a volunteer, committee member, and standards evaluator for the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Dorene is a travel junkie, and has led ACHS Study Abroad programs to India, Indonesia, Greece, and Hawaii!