Have you been feeling down lately? Whether it’s the changing of the seasons, stress from school or work, or even Mercury Retrograde, we’re right there with you. We know it’s tempting to use food to feel better—Hi, emotional eating. These foods usually are high in sugars and fats, which make us feel better almost instantly, but don’t leave us feeling satisfied. Instead, we’re left craving them more, and our brains learn to associate these foods as a reward for feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that can be stopped by saving ice cream, candy, french fries, and chips as treats in moderation. Instead supplement the following mood-boosting foods into your diet. Research shows a strong correlation between nutrition and mental health, and it’s believed that eating better makes you feel better and changes the physiology of your body to follow. Not only will you be nourishing yourself by choosing healthier options, you’ll be eating foods scientifically proven to aid in anxiety relief, depression, focus, and overall mood!
To us, ordering sushi after a long day is a great idea. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, contain Omega-3 fatty acids, a group of essential fats that your body can’t make on its own. Omega-3s are crucial in brain neuron signaling, boost your gut and immune system health, and have even been found to decrease both risk and symptoms of depression. Two types of Omega-3s, DHA and EPA in the form of fish oil are the most important and easiest to ingest. The recommended daily dose is 250-500mg of combined EPA and DHA per day. Sound like a lot? Not to worry; A 3.5 ounce serving of salmon provides 2,260mg of EPA and DHA, so eating it a few times a week is a great way to ensure you’re taking in all your Omega-3s.
So, cutting outall sugary and fatty foods is a good rule, with the exception of dark chocolate. A favorite dessert of many, dark chocolate is a quick source of fuel (sugar) for your brain, and contains many mood-boosting compounds. A class of compounds in dark chocolate, known as health-promoting flavonoids, have been shown to reduce inflammation and boost blood flow to your brain, supporting the regulation of mood. Chocolate’s taste, texture, and smell contribute to the sense of pleasure we get while eating it, and scientists think our body’s physiologically respond to this in a positive way by elevating our mood. Dark chocolate is definitely a good mood food, so opt for 1-2 small squares after dinner to start feeling better in no time.
Coffee is the world’s most popular drink, and new research shows it might make the world happier, too. Most of us use coffee to stay awake; The caffeine in coffee prevents a compound called adenosine from attaching to receptors that promote tiredness, therefore increasing alertness and attention. While your coffee is making you more focused, it’s also stimulating the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, also known as the feel-good hormones. Don’t worry if you hate the jittery feeling of caffeine, research shows that even decaf coffee can have the same benefits in improving mood.
Fruit has been shown to be extremely beneficial in putting a smile on your face, whether it's on the top of a yogurt bowl for breakfast, in a smoothie, or by itself for a snack or a late-night dessert. The antioxidants in berries play a role in combating oxidative stress—an imbalance of harmful chemicals in the body that can lead to disease. Berries also contain anthocyanins (the purple-blue pigment in blueberries and blackberries), and a study found that a diet rich in berries containing these compounds lowered the risk of depression symptoms by 39%. Pro tip: buy frozen berries! They are frozen at peak ripeness, which helps to maintain their high amounts of antioxidants. Bananas are also a great feel-good snack option. They are high in Vitamin B6, which helps to release the same neurotransmitter chemicals as coffee. Bananas combine sugar and fiber, meaning that your body will release the sugar at a slower rate, stabilizing blood sugar and mood control. Not only will eating more bananas make you feel good, you won’t get a sugar high like you would in choosing ice cream or cookies instead. Another tip: freeze your bananas and blend them to create “nice-cream”. Get the feeling of eating ice cream while obtaining the positive benefits of bananas!
Being happy radiates from the inside out. An elevated mood shows as a glow on your face, gives you more energy, and decreases the stress response of your body. Eating these foods a few times a week is a great way to give your mood an extra boost, while maintaining a healthy diet. For the ultimate self-care day, find a new recipe that uses these foods, and make a home-cooked meal for yourself! Cooking can be calming, and eating these foods is a surefire way to cheer yourself up.
Disclaimer: This blog post is purely informational and does not imply any evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration. This blog post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases, nor should it substitute for advice from a healthcare professional.