You probably already know that eating healthy foods is good for you. They help strengthen your immunity, keep your metabolism running, help you stay fit, and provide various other benefits.
But did you know that some healthy foods can also boost your mood?
It is very common for people to turn to food when they’re feeling down. However, most people resort to sugary foods that are high in calories during these low moments. These comfort foods don’t really help and can have some negative consequences of their own.
So what else can you opt for when you’re feeling blue?
Nutrition and Mental Health
With people becoming more aware of mental health and the various benefits of following a healthy diet (including but not limited to losing weight), researchers have also taken more interest in the subject. As a result, research surrounding the relationship between mental health and nutrition has been emerging.
Of course, there are a lot of factors that affect a person’s mood. It can be influenced by stress, environment, sleeping patterns, mood disorders, nutritional deficiencies, and even genetics.
Nevertheless, certain foods have been shown to enhance a person’s mood. Regular consumption of such foods can improve overall brain health and fight certain types of mood disorders.
Foods that Help Boost Your Mood
Following are some foods that aren’t just good for your health but can also lift your spirits when you’re feeling down.
1. Fatty Fish
According to the research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2014, fish is a healthy food that can help fight depression. Many traditional regional diets – Mediterranean, Norwegian, and Japanese – use fish as a key ingredient and are recommended for their anti-depressive benefits. Fatty fish like salmon and albacore are rich in two types of omega-3 fatty acids; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Both of these are linked to lower levels of depression.
Since our bodies do not produce omega-3 fats, it is essential to obtain them through your diet. Fatty fish is one of the best sources of these fats. If you don’t eat fish for any reason, some studies have shown that consuming omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil can also lower depression scores. It isn’t as effective as consuming the real thing, but it will help your mood with consistent consumption.
2. Whole Grains
Reaching for muffins or pasta when you’re feeling low isn’t entirely bad. However, switch ingredients such as refined sugar and white flour with whole-grain and high-fiber ingredients, as they are better for your brain and body health. When you want to feel better, a good place to start is by stabilizing your blood sugar. That isn’t possible if you eat too many sweets or highly refined carbs.
Instead, if you’re craving a carb-fix, opt for whole grain pasta, whole wheat bread, or brown rice. You can use healthy protein and colorful vegetables to go along with it. Additionally, you can swap the flour in your muffins for healthier alternatives such as whole wheat flour, spelt flour, rye flour, or even flaxseed powder.
Similarly, you can swap white sugar for brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Most bakeries have healthier alternatives of baked goods using these as base ingredients as well. So even if you don’t feel like baking yourself, you can always find healthier alternatives to your favorite muffins.
3. Kefir (and other fermented foods)
Kefir is the new it probiotic. Similar to yogurt, this fermented milk drink provides plenty of probiotic health benefits. It replenishes the good bacteria in your gut, supports digestion, and can even improve your immunity.
The fermentation process allows live bacteria in foods. These are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids. Probiotics are created during this process. Not only do these living microorganisms support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, but they can also increase your serotonin levels. Other fermented foods that positively affect your mood include yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut.
And no, although beer and wine are also fermented, the cooking and filtering process removes most of the probiotic properties. Therefore, they don’t have the same effect on your mood.
According to a data analysis that appeared in the journal Nutrition in September 2015, higher consumption of fruits is linked to lower rates of depression. The mechanism isn’t clear yet, but it is believed that inflammation is associated with depression and other mood disorders. A diet rich in antioxidants helps manage inflammation levels. Berries contain a wide range of antioxidants and phenolic compounds. These play a crucial role in combating oxidative stress – an imbalance of harmful compounds in the body. A diet rich in anthocyanins – a pigment that gives certain berries their purple-blue color – reduces the symptoms of depression by up to 39%.
5. Dark Chocolate
There are many mood-boosting compounds in dark chocolate. Its sugar is a quick source of fuel for the brain, which may help improve mood. When you eat chocolate, a cascade of feel-good compounds, such as caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine (substances that share chemical similarities to cannabinoids and had been linked to improved moods) are released.
Dark chocolate is also high in flavonoids. These are shown to increase blood flow to the brain, boost brain health, and reduce inflammation, all of which can help regulate mood. Lastly, chocolate has a high hedonic rating. This means that its satisfying smell, taste, and texture may also support mood regulation. Also, strawberries covered in dark chocolate are a guaranteed mood booster!
So next time you’re feeling down, do not reach for high-calorie junk food that you think will help make you feel better. Instead, opt for one of these foods and improve your mood while also supporting your health.