Could your diet be undermining your brain’s potential? Here are food ideas to help boost your mood.

You need: Serotonin. Serotonin synthesis relies on a chain reaction in the brain. It is made by an amino acid called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which triggers release of a chemical called tryptophan that boosts serotonin levels.

Eat: Carbs. Have you ever felt an overwhelming urge to binge on carbohydrate foods after a bad day or PMS attack? It’s likely that your brain was trying to self-medicate to generate more serotonin.


  • Dairy foods: Think yoghurt, cheese and milk – these are all high in calcium, which causes a chain-reaction that helps increase tryptophan levels and serotonin. This is why a cup of warm milk before bed helps some people get to sleep faster.
  • Good-quality protein: Foods such as turkey, eggs, beans and fatty fish (eg salmon and sardines) are high in tryptophan, which then taxis across the blood brain barrier to boost your mood.
  • Lentils: They replenish your levels of folic acid, an important mineral that is often deficient in people with depression.
  • Brazil nuts: These boost your levels of selenium, also often low in people suffering the blues.
  • Fruits: Serotonin occurs naturally in fruits such as plums, cherries, kiwi fruit, plantains, bananas, pineapple and tomatoes.
  • Hot chocolate: Cocoa boasts high polyphenol levels, which may help reduce symptoms of depression, shows French research published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.

Mood sabateurs 

According to principal research fellow at the Deakin University of Medicine Associate Professor Felice Jacka, fast food can undermine mood. “Our research clearly shows that junk and processed foods that are high in fats and sugars contribute to mental health problems,” she says. A diet rich in foods such as fresh fruit and veg, wholegrains and lean protein correlates with lower depression and anxiety risk.

Want to sharpen your concentration levels? Read all about the foods that will help.