Introducing the Food for Mood Campaign

What we eat affects not only our physical wellbeing but also how we operate emotionally. The College of Medicine and Integrated Health has collaborated with Harvard-trained nutritional psychiatrist and professional chef Dr Uma Naidoo, our US Ambassador of food and nutrition, on a new online campaign with practical tips and recipes for eating well for better sleep, memory, and focus, and reducing symptoms of anxiety, pain, and unhappiness.

Why Is Food Important to Your Mood and Mental Health?

  1. What we eat directly impacts our emotions because our gut and brain are connected.
  2. When we eat unhealthy food, the by-products of these foods harm our gut and we may develop inflammation.
  3. Inflammation in the gut leads to problems in the brain too.
  4. One simple way to start to feel better along with medicine and therapy, is with small changes to how and what you eat. Start with the Mood Foods below!
  5. A happy gut is a calm and happy mood!

The Science Behind These Mood Foods


Two tablespoons of almonds contains 37% of your daily vitamin E need. Vitamin E acts as an anti-inflammatory in the brain to reduce the effects of oxidative stress that can contribute to symptoms of anxiety. Almonds are rich in magnesium, an essential nutrient that helps to regulate the nervous system for an improved sense of calm. Excellent source of prebiotic fiber which helps to feed the good bacteria in the gut for a more balanced microbiome and improved stress response.


Rich is fiber, healthy fats and several vitamins C, E, K, and B6, B9, riboflavin, and niacin.
They contain some of the same phytochemicals (lutein and zeazanthin) that are in our eye tissue so they help keep our vision healthy. Folate helps uplift our mood.


Blueberries pack a depression-fighting punch with its richness in anthocyanins, a particular type of antioxidant that gives these berries their characteristic color while supporting healthy stress tolerance and anti-inflammation all over the body, particularly in the brain. They are rich in folate, reduce inflammation and support healthy serotonin levels, all of which help our mental well being.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains 1,769 milligrams of omega-3s. These nutrients play a role in the functioning of serotonin and dopamine, two of the critical neurochemicals for our mental well being. They are high in protein and fiber which supports a healthy gut and may be tied to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. 


Naturally contain tryptophan, the amino acid precursor for melatonin which helps individuals fall asleep and stay asleep. Chickpeas are high in fiber for improved gut health and reduced neuro-inflammation which helps to promote a sense of calm. A source of complex carbohydrates which can increase serotonin production for a more restful night’s sleep.


Is a dry spice high in polyphenols which support healthy brain tissue over time for improved cognition. Can help stabilize blood sugar after meals to reduce the likelihood of energy crashes that can cause brain fog. Rich in manganese, an element that works as a powerful antioxidant to reduce inflammation in the brain that can cause you to feel foggy.

Colourful Vegetables

Different coloured plant foods contain different brain boosting nutrients so in order to optimize the nutrient quality of your diet, be sure to eat the rainbow! A diet that is rich in diverse plant-based foods, contains plenty of fiber to support a healthy and thriving microbiome, which influences a healthier body and mind. New research suggests that athletes who nurture their microbiome with a variety of fiber filled plant foods, clean protein sources and healthy fats have better performance outcomes than those who follow the more traditional high protein diets often associated with athletes. Such a diet also helps to repair tissue, keep inflammation down and mental focus sharp! 


Loaded with polyphenol antioxidants which numerous studies show to be effective in reducing the damaging effects of oxidative stress in the brain which can lead to neurodegenerative disease with age. Coffee contains the micronutrients potassium and magnesium which are electrolytes that support a healthy nervous system and brain tissue. Provide the vitamins riboflavin and niacin (B2 & B3) which help support healthy neurotransmitter production and mental fitness with age.


Edamame beans are whole, immature soybean which are green in colour. They contain about 18.4 grams of protein which provides all the essential amino acids. These are rich in protein, antioxidants, vitamin K and folate.


If you can, buy organic eggs. Excellent source of Vitamin D, a neurosteroid that can travel from the blood to the brain cells to decrease inflammation associated with low mood. Naturally rich in choline, a nutrient that supports healthy brain cells and nervous system regulation. Contain Vitamin B6 which helps to increase levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which help to uplift mood.

Flax Seeds

Contain a healthy amount of omega-3 fats and fiber, as well as folate. Folate is a key nutrient for supporting proper neuron function in the brain and getting enough of it helps to resist symptoms of depression.


Contains gingerol which acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory to help prevent damage associated with oxidative stress in the brain and therefore can help ease stress and anxiety. Rich in antioxidant Vitamin C which help support focus and relieve brain fog. Good source of magnesium which helps to support a healthy nervous system and stress response.

Green Salad  

Green salads contain vitamin B9 (folate) which helps your mood. A low folate level in your body is associated with a sad mood. So, eat your salad green  salads. Folate helps maintain the function of neurotransmitters and keeps our brain functioning at its best.

Fermented Foods (e.g. Sauerkraut, Kimchi)

A study showed that eating some fermented foods every day helps to lower inflammation in the gut.  Adding a fermented food you like into your diet can help your mental well-being by feeding your gut with healthy new strains of bacteria which heal any inflammation. Just watch for added sugars and unhealthy ingredients on the food label.


Oregano, lavender, and chamomile added to a tea or to foods can help mood.


Iron is a mineral that we need for the healthy growth and development of our body. Iron is used to make hemoglobin – which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the respiratory system to all parts of the body. Iron plays an important role in how your body makes neurotransmitters called serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are very important in mental well-being. Low iron may be associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Foods include red meat, pork and poultry, seafood, beans, spinach and peas.


Magnesium is another essential mineral for brain function, and it plays a crucial role in calcium metabolism. Magnesium can be obtained from foods such as nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. 

Olive oil

Olive oil contains potent polyphenols, including oleocanthal, which exhibits anti-inflammatory properties.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Are an incredibly powerful tool in reducing inflammation in the gut and brain. They can be found abundantly in wild caught fish like salmon, anchovies, tuna, mackerel and sardines, as well as in nuts and seeds like walnuts and chia seeds. Omega-3 consumption is associated with reduced anxiety, brain fog and cognitive decline, as well as improved mood.


Rich in antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline and memory loss with age. Contains carnosic acid, which can fight off the damaging effects of free radicals in the brain to maintain healthy tissue and memory. Excellent source of B Vitamins including folate, niacin and thiamine which all play a crucial role in supporting healthy neurotransmitter function which help us stay mentally fit with age.


Sage is a herb that is loaded with antioxidants and also a good source of vitamin K

Vitamin K helps support healthy blood flow which allows our brains to get all the oxygen and nutrients especially to our brain to stay mentally fit.

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice may help increase the body’s melatonin levels. This could reduce symptoms of insomnia and can result in better quality sleep. The high antioxidant levels in tart cherry juice may help improve cognitive function when consumed regularly.


With a pinch of black pepper helps with absorption and makes turmeric more effective. Through the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin which is the active ingredient in turmeric, it helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression while relieving brain fog for increased focus and energy. By combatting the damaging effects of oxidative stress, it also helps to maintain healthy brain tissue as we age for a reduced risk of conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Vitamin C 

Plays a role in neurotransmission as well and is a cofactor in several enzyme reactions that are important for memory and mental health. Higher blood levels of vitamin C are associated with less cognitive impairment.  Vitamin C content is high in broccoli, bell peppers, kale, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, tomatoes and papaya, to name a few.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium in the gut. Sun exposure is the most significant source of vitamin D, but it can also be obtained from foods such as fatty fish (salmon, anchovies, sardines), mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified foods. 


They are rich in antioxidants (polyphenols) and promote a healthy gut. Walnuts are packed with short chain omega-3 fatty acids called ALA. One of the omega-3 fats that helps to reduce inflammation and stress, as well as ward off cognitive decline with age. Walnuts also contain an incredibly high number of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant compound found in plants that helps the brain resist the damaging effects of oxidative stress.


Zinc is important for the function of certain neurotransmitter systems, such as the glutamatergic and GABAergic systems. Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc. Other sources included beef, chicken, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans), pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds, and dark chocolate.

Food for Mood Recipes

** frozen fruit (with no added sugar, salt or syrup)

*can be fresh or frozen

** can replace with any fish or chicken, recipe/method will vary with the type of cut and cook of steak

* Remember to maintain your fibre intake as it is lost in a smoothie ** can replace with chicken of tofu

  • Colourful salad with lentils*
  • Beef* and colourful vegetable stir-fry 
  • Baked chicken* with avocado, tomato, & spinach (olive oil dressing) 

*Can replace with fish, chicken or chickpeas