You are what you eat? Maybe not, but you do feel what you eat. Research suggests that certain foods affect mood—for better or worse. Dietary changes can trigger chemical and physiological changes within the brain that alter our behavior and emotions. “Most people understand the link between what they eat and their physical health,” says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of the 2010 book Eat Your Way to Happiness. “But the link between what you eat and your mood, your energy, how you sleep, and how well you think is much more immediate. What you eat or don’t eat for breakfast will have at least a subtle effect by mid-afternoon, and what you’re eating all day will have a huge impact today and down the road.”

1. You don’t eat regularly. Food is fuel; skip a meal and you’ll feel tired and cranky.

2. You skimp on carbs. Carbohydrates have long been demonized, but your body needs carbs to produce serotonin—a feel-good brain chemical that elevates mood, suppresses appetite, and has a calming effect.

3. You fall short on omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s—found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines—improve both memory and mood.

4. You neglect important nutrients. Getting too little iron can spell depression, fatigue, and inattention, research suggests. Iron-rich foods include red meat, egg yolks, dried fruit, beans, liver, and artichokes.

5. You eat too much fat. That bag of potato chips isn’t good for your waistline or your mood. Greasy choices—particularly those high in saturated fat—are linked to both depression and dementia.

6. You chug without thinking. What you drink affects your spirits as much as what you eat. In moderate amounts, caffeine can enhance physical and mental performance, but too much can spur anxiety, nervousness, and mood swings. Stick to one or two cups daily to dodge the negative effects.

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