Bad Mood Foods: Which ones to avoid and their healthy replacements


Everyone gets in a funk from time to time, but when you’re noticing a pattern of mood swings or depression, it might be time to take a look at your diet. 

We are what we eat, and if we’re regularly eating foods that impact our mood in a bad way, it can have a negative effect, not just on how we feel and act, but on our focus and productivity as well.

Keep reading to find out which bad mood foods to avoid and the healthy switches you can make to not accidentally sabotage your mental focus and emotional wellbeing.  

1. Hard Alcohol (Spirits)

If we could put this one on the bad mood foods list twice, we would. Alcohol is a sneaky one, because it tricks you into thinking you’re happy and having fun at first while slowing making you feel worse than you would have by abstaining. 

Many of us tend to have a glass of wine or beer with dinner or to celebrate something, but if you’re using it to suppress physical or emotional stress it can create dependency and a long term problem.

Generally speaking, there are actually some positive health benefits associated with consuming small amounts of wine or beer - ONLY if they're naturally brewed, additive and preservative-free.  These drinks are natural ferments or sacraments that have been embraced for thousands of years and which can be enjoyed in moderation.

Spirits and/or 'distilled' alcohol, on the other hand, are too hot for the brain and can create chaos within the neurochemistry and body.

When it comes to alcohol intake, particularly if you have an addictive personality, it can become like a crutch that you use to numb pain and avoid dealing with your problems.  This can become a vicious cycle that you need to break by finding other more positively stimulating outlets or activities.

Alcohol causes your hormones to induce feelings of stress and anxiety, and it’s also known as a depressant, so it can reduce your levels of serotonin (the hormone that makes you happy). 

At the same time, alcohol can also impair your judgment and change your behaviour, which can lead to feelings of depression, regret, and frustration.

Try limiting your alcohol intake to 1-2 nights a week.

Experiment with a “dry month”, or even try giving up alcohol for good to see a difference in your mood. 

Healthy Swap:  Be sure to only consume naturally fermented or brewed, preservative-free e.g. Biodynamic or Organic wines and no-additive, craft beers where possible.  Fermented drinks like kombucha are a healthy and delicious alternative, while also providing you plenty of gut-enriching probiotics. 

Learn more in 5 Healthy Reasons to Drink Kombucha & How to Make Your Own.

2. Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners

You’d be hard-pressed to find another bad mood food quite as addictive as added sugar. This isn’t the same as naturally occurring sugar like what you find in fruits; we’re talking about sugars that are added to everything from yogurt to bread to salad dressings.

Sugar causes a dangerous reaction in our body. It first sends you on a sugar high, giving you a burst of energy, but then inevitably you crash. The crash leaves you feeling irritable, tired, depressed and anxious, while also craving more sugar to start the cycle all over again. 

Healthy Swap: use natural sugar sources like raw honey, coconut sugar, dates, or blackstrap molasses. Try sweetening your food less and less; over time, you’ll find you don’t crave sweet foods as much anymore (a bonus for both your mood and your waistline). 

3. Margarine

We’ve been taught to avoid fats like butter for years, and the result is an influx of butter-like products. These hydrogenated products are typically made from heavily farmed, genetically modified commodity crops like canola and corn, to form oxidised trans fats (made with heat and light). The finished form is toxic to the human body, potentially leading to not only bad moods, but cardiovascular problems as well.

'Fake' fats like margarine aren't even real food - in fact chemically, they resemble plastic - and create chaos and free-radicals in the body.  

Healthy Swap: revert back to good old-fashioned real, grass-fed butter. If you’re looking for something to cook with, use EVOO raw on salads, for dipping wholegrain bread etc. and coconut oil is best for heavy frying and baking because of it's stability and high heat point. 

4. Commercial-Grade Caffeine

Most of us can’t start our day without a cup or two of coffee, and many of us even think our mood depends on that first cup of coffee.

Whilst at its core coffee is actually a healthy, morning drink, it's important to be conscious of the type of coffee you're drinking, what you add to it and the extent to which you depend on it.

Organic coffee - without sweeteners and plastic milks - is how coffee is meant to enjoyed. But drinking too much of it or consuming it after noon, can play havoc with your mood and ability to focus late in the day.  

Coffee is one of the biggest commodity crops on earth.  As such, it is subjected to heavy pesticides also, which can interfere with your hormones, and disrupt nerve signalling and neurotransmitter function, not to mention make you feel jittery and anxious, affect your sleep, and cause caffeine withdrawal symptoms like headaches and low energy. By all means, enjoy your morning cup of coffee, just do it right by grinding organic beans yourself at home or from your local cafe and be sure only add milks like raw almond, coconut or oat milk and natural sweeteners like raw honey.  

Healthy Swap: Grind your own organic beans at home, at your office, or choose organic from your local cafe and be careful about what you add.  Substitute green or herbal teas at night.

Learn more in Coffee: the Healthy Way to Enjoy Your Daily Cup.  

5. Processed Meats

Processed meats that have been infused with chemicals, typically include sausages, chorizo, salami, bacon, corned beef and ham.

These Deli meats are packed with fillers, additives, preservatives and salt, which can cause any number of things from migraines to bloating and mood swings - not to mention the impact on heart, blood and resistance to diseases like cancer.

Healthy Swap: Avoid meat altogether if you can, but if not, go with grass fed, organic and/or free range meats, chicken and fish that have not been treated with any kinds of hormones.  Great meat alternatives from the plant kingdom include mashed beans, chickpeas, portobello mushrooms, roasted vegetables and or jackfruit. 

6. Refined Flour & Grains 

Refined flour and grains mostly include packaged foods such as:

  • White bread
  • Packaged Cereals
  • Cakes
  • Cookies and Biscuits
  • White Rice and Pasta  

The problem with these foods is two fold - they are calorie rich, but nutrient poor.  Additionally, they have been stripped of their natural fibres. 

All of these factors can lead to inflammatory responses in the body, which include, weight gain, chronic fatigue, metabolic problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

Healthy Swap: Replace with wholegrain breads, wild rice, organic stone milled flour and cereals like rolled oats. 

The bad mood foods list doesn’t end here, but these are by far the worst contenders (and many of them might have surprised you). 

Eating isn’t just about sustenance or survival; it’s conscious choices every single day that add up to your quality of life, your health, and your happiness. 

As much as possible, avoid the foods that are bringing you down and make the healthy swaps that can make you feel lighter, in more ways than one. 

To help boost your mood, as well as the right diet and lifestyle choices, consider also embracing the power of pure doTERRA essential oils

More information about emotions and mood rebalancing can be found in our previous blog, How to Balance Mood & Reset Your Nervous System. 

Tolman Self Care.


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