We know that happiness and health go hand-in-hand. When you’re healthier, you’re happier, and when you’re happier, you’re healthier. But every now and again, our moods need a little lifting, and eating the right healthy food can be a great way to give you that needed boost.
There’s a science to why we reach for certain foods when we’re feeling down. When we’re low, our brains crave carbs and sugar, which provide a quick burst of serotonin (the “feel good” neurotransmitter) in the brain. There’s a reason you reach for the cupcake when you’re feeling stressed or that ice cream when you’re sad, and you don’t reach for carrots!
But have you ever overdone it on those sugary treats when you’re in need of a mood boost and found yourself regretting it a bit afterward? Often, we reach for a quick fix that can leave us feeling good in the short term, but can quickly leave us feeling bloated and in a crash shortly after.
If you are in need of an energy boost and a mood-lifter, certain foods are packed with benefits that will help you achieve exactly that. Be smart about your choices, and nourish your body AND soul with these delicious eats that will have you feeling a bit brighter.
Salmon and other cold-water fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely important for brain health. Omega-3s have been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression, and those that have diets rich in these fatty acids have been shown to exhibit a more positive mood. Salmon is also rich in vitamin B12, an important vitamin for mood, and those that have diets deficient in this vitamin have an increased risk for depression.
Nuts and seeds
Like salmon, many nuts and seeds are packed with omega-3s. Walnuts, hemp seeds, and chia seeds boast some of the highest concentration of omegas. With a balance of fat and protein, nuts can be a great blood sugar stabilizing snack, which helps to keep your mood level and stable.
Yogurt is a great source of probiotics, and evidence points to probiotics’ ability to help manage stress and anxiety. Greek yogurt is also packed with protein, and the amino acids found in protein-rich foods are the precursors for neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, the “feel-good” neurotransmitters.
Dark chocolate has been shown to stimulate the production of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that can contribute to feelings of pleasure. In particular, chocolate boosts brain serotonin, the anti-depressant neurotransmitter that boosts feelings of happiness. While you shouldn’t solely rely on dark chocolate as a mood booster, feel free to enjoy a small serving of high-quality dark chocolate for its taste AND mood-lifting effects.
Avocados seem to be on every healthy eating list, and for good reason. This nutritional powerhouse is a great source of folic acid, which supports serotonin regulation. Not getting enough folic acid also contributes to fatigue and less serotonin in the brain. The monounsaturated fats found in avocado have also been shown to boost mood; studies have indicated that diets high in monounsaturated fat are correlated with lower instances of depression.
Heat it up with some spice to lift your spirits. When your body breaks down capsaicin, the chemical in peppers that makes them spicy and elicits a pain response, your body releases endorphins in the brain. Add that hot sauce to your food, and you’ll also get a little metabolism boost as well!
Bananas are a nutrient-packed way to satisfy those sugar cravings when they strike. Bananas are a great source of tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin in the brain. The carbohydrates found in bananas help aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, while high levels of vitamin B6 help convert the tryptophan to serotonin in the brain.
Carbs boost the production of serotonin, and sweet potatoes are an excellent source of healthy, unrefined carbohydrates. Not only will you get a mood boost, but eating these helps keep your blood sugar stable for longer, meaning you won’t experience a crash. Roast or bake these fiber-packed veggies for a great source of mood-lifting vitamin B6 as well.
Author: Maggie Harriman