If you have read our Food and Diet or Expert Opinions sections, you now know that you can make many small changes that will greatly change and improve your mood.

First, a Little About Comfort Foods…
For instance, did you know that some dieticians are now recommending that you eat comfort foods when you crave them? That’s because comfort foods do improve mood–as long as you don’t go overboard.

For instance, Joy Short, MS, RD, assistant professor and head of undergraduate nutrition and dietetics at St. Louis University, advises people to “go for it” when they feel the need for comfort foods. But, she adds that you can make small changes to your comfort food to make it healthier and have a longer-lasting uplifting effect on your mood:


"If you want a cookie, make it oatmeal raisin or vanilla wafers. Buy low-fat ice cream. Make your hot chocolate with skim milk. And forget the chips, in favor of popcorn or pretzels."


Joy Short, MS, RD

For People “On the Go”

Obviously, dietary changes can make a big difference to your mood. But let’s face it: with our modern lifestyles, many of us can’t always hit the target when it comes to eating healthy (at least not all the time). Many times we are “on the go” and have no time to pack a healthy lunch or even eat lunch.

So what is the solution? Supplements.

Whether you sip a nutrient-rich smoothie supplemented with certain “good mood” additions, or you gulp down a handful of pills brimming with omega-3 fatty acids and b-vitamins, supplements are a great way to “fill in the gaps” when you don’t have time to eat right.

Which Supplements are Good for Mood?
There are so many supplements on the shelves these days you may find choosing the right ones for mood support a little tricky. That’s why we’ve created a list of supplements known to support a healthy mood, backed by science and research. Scan the list and see where you might be able to fill some gaps in your daily nutrient line-up.

We have done a lot of research and personal testing of many of these supplements. If we have found that a particular supplement works well, we have created a underlined link so you can read more about that particular supplement.

Shop for Good Mood Supplements

Categories of Supplements to Support Good Mood

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

"A recent 9-month study of bipolar disorder (manic depression) was stopped after only 4 months because omega-3 s were so effective at smoothing out moods."
Colleen Pierre, RD

Omega-3 fatty acids tops our list of good mood supplements because it is a form of fat that feeds your brain, and your brain plays such a vital role in your mood. According to registered dietician Kate Geagan, "In order for your brain to function optimally, it needs to have the right nutrient building blocks available, and omega-3 fats are one of the most important when it comes to boosting your mood. The brain is 60% fat, and particularly loves omega-3 fats... Growing evidence suggests that consuming inadequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression and poor moods."

In fact, lack of this type of fat may be why dieters are cranky. According to New York University clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, if you are trying to lose weight, avoid a low-fat diet and don't lose weight too quickly, as both of these contribute to bad mood! Says Jay Whelan, PhD, head of the department of nutrition at the University of Tennessee. "Omega-3s from fish seem to have positive effects on clinically defined mood swings such as postpartum depression."
Herbal-Natural-Supplements1
According to the National Institutes of Health: "The three principal omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)... ALA can be converted, usually in small amounts, into EPA and DHA in the body... ALA is an "essential" fatty acid, meaning that people must obtain it from food or supplements because the human body cannot manufacture it."

"Arizona State University researchers reported that high intakes of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fat found in walnuts, flaxseed and chia seed, can keep you feeling chipper."
Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

So make sure you are get plenty of ALA, EPA, and DHA. How much is enough? According to Henry Emmons, MD, a psychiatrist with the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota, a dose of 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams or more of these fatty acids is recommended when taken for mood problems.

Supplement Sources for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Fish Oil: The American Heart Association recommends taking up to 3 grams of fish oil supplements. Most local health foods stores carry this supplement, which now also comes unflavored (so you don't taste fish all day!)
  • AFA Blue-Green Algae: This form of whole food micro-algae is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids on the planet (especially ALA), plus it has the perfect balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Read more about this supplement HERE.
  • High-Quality Vegetable Oils: According to Jon Barron, nutraceutical researcher, go for vegetable oils that are cold-pressed, organic, and unrefined when possible. For salads and low-temperature cooking, extra virgin olive oil is a great choice. For mid-temperature cooking, try coconut oil or a little butter. High temperature cooking is best done with avocado oil, which has a high smoke point, meaning it maintains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids even at high temperatures. According to the National Institutes of Health, alternate sources of oil include canola, flaxseed, soybean, and algae oils.

Try our 'Good Mood Recipes'

Probiotics
If you have been paying attention to commercials on TV, no doubt you've seen plenty of commercials touting the benefits of probiotic supplements and food sources, such as yogurt. What are probiotics? They are the aptly named ("pro" means "for" and "biotic" means "life") beneficial bacteria that live in your body, mostly in your gut.

"The species of bacteria in your colon could determine how thin or fat you are, or maybe how vulnerable you are to stress."
Emily Deans, MD

In other words, these bacteria can affect good mood. There are one hundred trillion of these in your body, and 90% reside in your gut!

How do probiotics affect mood? Deans explains it this way:


"Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are known to produce GABA. Escherichia, Bacillus, and Saccharomyces produce norepinephrine. Candida, Streptococcus, Escherichia, and Enterococcus produce serotonin. Bacillus and Serratia produce dopamine, and Lactobacillus species produce acetylcholine. That's pretty much the entire hit parade of major neurotransmitters (there's histamine and glutamate and a few others..."


- Emily Deans, MD

If you've read the earlier parts of this page, you'll see how many of the "feel good" neurotransmitters are linked to having plenty of probiotics in the body. But that's not all. Probiotics are also essential to the production and absorption of B-vitamins, such as B-12, in the body. According to Bill Code, MD, "Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to anemia and neurological abnormalities." In other words, neurological abnormalities do not add up to a good mood!

Not All Probiotics the Same!
When shopping for probiotic supplements, it is buyer beware! Research shows that not all probiotics are of the same quality. Consider these research facts about acidophilus alone, just one of the many probiotics our bodies need:

  • some strains of acidophilus cannot even survive human stomach fluids
  • 70-80% of the products on the market don't measure up to their numerical claims (of the number of live probiotic cells)
  • half the products don't have even 10% of their claimed number of live microorganisms
  • some products have bacterial products not included on the labels

So even reading labels won't help you because not all labels are truthful. They may have been truthful at the time of manufacture, but not after a long shelf life.

These sources have been tested to survive the journey from mouth to gut, as well as maintain the labeled population of probiotics during the journey from manufacturer to your refrigerator (storing these in the fridge will prolong shelf life). In addition, these probiotics include prebiotics, which are food sources that feed the probiotics, helping them stay alive in your gut.


L-Trytophan or Tryptophan
This amino acid is important for regulating serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is one of the hormones in the body that transmits signals between nerve cells. According to Elaine Magee, registered dietician, serotonin plays an important role in mood. She says, "Serotonin -- a chemical I fondly call the "feel-good" neurotransmitter -- communicates 'happy' messages to your brain. Basically, the more serotonin circulating in your bloodstream, the better your mood." This may be why some clinical evidence suggests that L-tryptophan is effective not just for good mood, but also for smoking cessation and preventing teeth grinding at night.

Our bodies use L-trytophan to create serotonin. Because our bodies cannot make L-trytophan, it is considered an "essential amino acid," meaning we have to get this amino acid from foods or supplements. Most commonly associated with turkey (hence the drowsiness after Thanksgiving dinner), this amino acid is found in most animal and plant proteins.

As a supplement, there are plenty of sources. According to Ray Sahelian, MD, the recommended average dosage is 500 mg per day, usually taken in the evening on an empty stomach or according to directions given by your healthcare provider. Look for brand name sources made in the U.S.A. to ensure you are buying top quality supplements.

sarah_williams1-300x2931B Vitamins
B vitamins, especially folate and B12, have long been shown to have a positive effect on mood. Elaine Magee, registered dietician, reports:

"A recent Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, showed that rates of depression tended to increase in men (especially smokers) as folate intake decreased. The same occurred for women (especially among those who smoked or were physically active) but with another B-vitamin: B12. This isn't the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression."

When shopping for B vitamin supplements, consider a sub-lingual B-complex. Many researchers believe that the sub-lingual version of this vitamin complex is more quickly and easily absorbed by the body than those taken orally. Also remember that your body can easily produce B vitamins if you have plenty of healthy probiotics in your gut. For some people, especially vegans and vegetarians, B vitamin supplements are a necessity because there are so few food sources of this vitamin in the diet. Some studies suggests that these people may benefit from B-12 injections.

The bottom line, though, seems to be that B vitamins can and should be produced by the body in sufficient quantities. Research suggests people whose bodies cannot do so usually have a gut-related health issue. According to WebMD, "Typically it occurs in people whose digestive systems do not adequately absorb the vitamin from the foods they eat." Thus correcting gut health by supplementing with sufficient probiotics seems to be one of the best solutions.

Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 is one of the best-known supplements for heart health. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, this coenzyme is also good for mood. That is because the heart "shen" is responsible for the feeling of joy, thus a healthy heart equals a joyful mood.

Scientifically, this coenzyme also shows positive effects on mood. According to Chris D. Meletis, ND, "The antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may possess antidepressant properties, according to a new study published in January 2013... 'The researchers concluded... CoQ10 may have a potential therapeutic value for the management of depressive disorders.'"

Adds David Leopold, MD, director of Integrative Medical Education at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, "...people who are deficient in CoQ10, carnitine, and B vitamins may benefit from the supplements. And deficiency is much more common than we think."

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Our favorite source of CoQ10 is HERE.

Vitamin D
This vitamin, which you can easily get from sunlight, plays an important role in good mood. According to researcher Pamela K. Murphy, PhD, at the Medical University of South Carolina, people can get a mood boost by taking at least 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day. While that's more than the average recommended amount of vitamin D, very few foods naturally contain this vitamin, so supplementation is necessary.

Get a boost from this vitamin with short periods of exposure to sunlight and vitamin D supplements.

Selenium
This vital supplement is used heavily by the brain. Says Elaine Magee, registered dietician, "Five studies have reported that low selenium intake is linked to poorer moods... The way the brain metabolizes selenium differs from other organs: When there's a deficiency of selenium, the brain retains this mineral to a greater extent -- leading some researchers to believe that it plays an important role in the brain."

Most doctors recommend that adults take up to 55 micrograms/day of this supplement.

SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)
This supplement, more commonly used in Europe, has recently become more popular in the U.S. Says Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, SAMe  "from an amino acid and also available from protein food sources, is another widely studied mood-enhancing substance that's commonly used in Europe."

"There's a correlation between low levels of SAM-e and depression," says Richard Brown, MD, clinical psychiatry professor at Columbia University. According to Psychology Today, "Research since the 1970s suggests that SAM-e's antidepressant action is comparable to that of prescription drugs. One such study, presented at a medical conference in Brussels, found SAM-e to be as effective in treating severe depression as the antidepressant imipramine. Used in tandem with conventional antidepressants, SAM-e also enhances their effectiveness. A study published in Psychiatry Research comparing 40 depression sufferers taking imipramine, half of whom were also given 400 mg of SAM-e a day, found a significant difference between the two treatments."

SAMe is easily available in most health food stores, and recommended dosages for adults is 400 mg per day.

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Also check out the Food and Diet and Lifestyle Changes pages