We all know that nutrition is essential. After all, food has the power to change our biology. It also has the ability to support our mental health. Food impacts our brains. And thus, our mood. For thousands of years, Eastern medicine practitioners have prescribed dietary changes to help ease mental ailments. Traditional Chinese medicine praises food as medicine. Thankfully, Western science is catching on. Solid evidence proves that what we eat is directly correlated to our wellbeing. Including, brain health. Today, we’re diving into healthy foods to boost your mood. Yes, happiness could be a few squares of chocolate away.
How Food Affects Mood
Like the rest of our bodies, our brains are essentially built from the food we eat. For example, our bodies can’t make serotonin (mood-regulating neurotransmitter) without iron and tryptophan. We get iron and tryptophan from both plant and animal sources. We need vitamin D for bone and immune health, and vitamin B12 to help insulate our brain cells. Both vitamin D and B12 are found in seafood, beef, and dairy. By incorporating these foods, you can stabilize your mood, improve your focus, and boost your brain health. Win, win, win.
Please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
The Link Between Diet and Mood Disorders
Consuming more nourishing foods can lead to a better mood. One small trial indicates that dietary intervention can improve baseline depression. Furthermore, multiple studies found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and mood disorders. This isn’t surprising. If your brain is deprived of quality nutrition—or if inflammatory cells are circulating within the brain—consequences include mood disorders.
How Blood Sugar Impacts Mood
Without sounding like a broken record, what we eat impacts our mood. Equally important, what we eat impacts our blood sugar. Which, in turn, affects our brain chemicals. It’s a two-way street. When our blood sugar levels fluctuate, our mood and energy levels change too. The negative effects include irritability, poor concentration, fatigue, depression, and more. By eating the right foods, though, you can keep your blood sugar—and thus, your mood—stable. Now, let’s discover healthy foods to boost your mood.
10 healthy Foods to Boost Your Mood
Adding vibrant produce, nuts, seeds, nourishing fats, and sustainably sourced protein is a top strategy for good mental health. After all, they provide the nutrients our bodies need to fight off inflammation in the brain. And too much inflammation in the brain can lead to depression. Good news is, most of these foods are easy to find and versatile. They’re fridge and pantry staples. Boosting your mood—and keeping up your energy—never tasted so good.
Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that converts into serotonin. Tryptophan induces relaxation, improves mood levels, and helps us to feel happier. Plus, bananas are high in vitamin B6. This synthesizes feel-good neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. From gluten-free banana bread to banana bread energy bites, bananas are an affordable and versatile fruit to have on hand.
Berries are loaded with anthocyanins. These are known to boost brain function and reduce inflammation. They’re also loaded with antioxidants, which promote brain and nervous system health. Additionally, berries appear to have similar impacts as certain mood-stabilizing medications, helping regulate emotions. Here’s my favorite blueberry chia jam recipe!
Yes, there’s a potential positive impact between chocolate and mood. Chocolate contains a type of antioxidant which is thought to boost mood. Dark chocolate is also rich in resveratrol. This helps boost endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins are a double-whammy: they help relieve pain and boost happiness. They’re sometimes called our “feel-good” hormones. If you haven’t tried Hu chocolate, grab this variety pack. They make chocolate chips, too. JoJo’s is my other favorite.
High-quality proteins are building blocks for a mood-boosting diet. Grass-fed beef—specifically—contains more healthy fats than its grain-fed counterparts. Compared with typical grain-fed meat, grass-fed has more omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in managing depression. As far as supplement are concerned, many of my clients have noticed a significant difference in their mood and energy with these pasture-raised beef liver capsules.
When it comes to healthy foods that boost your mood, don’t neglect fermented foods. Ingredients like kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage), kefir (fermented milk), miso (Japanese fermented soybean paste), and kombucha (a fermented drink brewed with yeast) all contain probiotic bacteria. And, research shows that probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function.
The gut has been called a “second brain” because it produces many of the same neurotransmitters as the brain does, like serotonin and dopamine. These play a key role in regulating mood. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of serotonin is made in the digestive tract. In essence, a gut populated by the right probiotics can aid in mental health.
Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation. And according to this study, severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation. Leafy greens are especially important because they contain high levels of vitamins and minerals.
A powerful form of green tea, matcha has a positive effect on the body and mind. One study noted that a higher consumption of green tea was associated with better cognitive function. Furthermore, matcha contains l-theanine. L-theanine can alter your brain’s quantities of dopamine and serotonin. The higher these quantities, the higher the likelihood of mood improvement.
Foods with fiber help slow the digestion of carbohydrates. In turn, sugar is slowly (rather than quickly) released into the bloodstream. Fiber helps keep energy levels stable. In one study, those who ate 1.5–6 grams of fiber at breakfast reported better mood and energy levels. This was attributed to more stable blood sugar. And blood sugar balance is important for controlling mood swings and irritability. Oats are also a wonderful source of iron. Iron deficiency anemia is associated with fatigue, sluggishness, and mood disorders.
Nuts contain an amino acid that’s responsible for creating serotonin. Excellent sources include walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and more. Moreover, nuts and seeds are a large component of both the MIND and Mediterranean diets, which may support a healthy brain. What’s more, a 10-year study linked moderate nut intake to a 23% lower risk of depression.
Oily fish, like wild-caught salmon and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Like grass-fed beef, these fish help boost serotonin levels. Studies show that people with the highest fish consumption have the lowest rates of depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Interestingly, a 2008 study found fish oil to be as effective as Prozac for treating major depression. Plus, salmon also contains vitamin B12, which helps produce certain mood-boosting brain chemicals. Aim for wild-caught salmon—it’s more nutrient-dense and sustainable.
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Thank you for supporting Wellness with Edie! This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.