Seeds and pulses have been shown to improve people’s wellbeing and moods more than cakes, sweets and chocolates.
Despite this, seven in ten women and one in two men indulge in sweet treats when they are stressed or looking for a mood boost, according to a survey.
Just one in seven people choose fruits, vegetables or wholegrains that are shown to combat stress and raise low moods.
The poll of 2,000 people, by rice brand Tilda, found that half ate unhealthy comfort food when they wanted to lift their mood, but only 28 per cent turned to friends or family to feel better.
Experts warn that many people are ‘eating their way to sadness’ by eating sweets and junk food.
Pumpkin seeds and chia seeds topped a top-ten list of mood-boosting foods compiled by dietitian Sarah Schenker and food psychologist Christy Fergusson.
The other items were salmon, rice, quinoa, chickpeas, coconut, asparagus, spinach and beans.
The research found men are more likely than women to turn to specific mood-boosting foods such as oats, quinoa and brown rice at times of stress or when they are looking to boost their health.
Perhaps worryingly, women are twice as likely as men to buy their friends or colleagues sugary foods such as chocolate or biscuits to comfort them, which may make their problems worse.
Dr Sarah Schenker, a clinical dietitian, said: 'It’s shocking to see wholesome eating habits go out the window when we face a challenge in the day or a lull in a routine.
'This is when healthy eating is most important. We need to replace the short-lived highs we get from refined sugar and processed fat with healthy options and long-term shopping and eating habits.
'This starts with recognising the types of food that can provide nutritional and psychological benefits; those which are scientifically proven to balance your mood.'
Food psychologist Dr Christy Fergusson said: 'To make feel-good, happy chemicals known as our neurotransmitters, we need to provide our body with the right building blocks.
'These come in the form of amino acids that are needed to make hormones including the mood-regulating inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin - by far one of the most important brain chemicals for determining our mood and regulating our sleep.'
Camilla Sheeley, of Tilda, said: 'Taste is an important part of so-called mood food and if we enjoy what we eat and the food has a functional boost, we get a double benefit.'