Best Foods to Boost Your Mood
We’ve all been there. You feel down in the dumps and there’s no force known to man that can stop you from eating a tub of ice cream or another treat packed with sugar, fat, or calories. While this may temporarily lift your spirits, more often than not it will cause a blood sugar spike then crash, which can ultimately make you feel way worse.
Instead of stress eating, you can eat foods that make you feel good over the long haul. These good mood foods are packed with nutrients that support healthy brain and nervous system function which cheer you up in the best, most sustainable way possible.
Boost Your B’s
The B vitamins are essential for the health of your brain and nervous system, for energy production, and for a healthy mood. These water-soluble nutrients can’t be stored in your body, so you need to get them from your food every day. Several of them support the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — the “feel good” compound that naturally helps you feel happy. So, foods rich in B vitamins are truly good mood foods.
Some good sources of B vitamins are:
- Dairy products
- Beans & lentils
- Leafy greens
- Nuts & seeds
- Salmon & trout
Amp Up Your Omega-3s
When you think of your brain, you might imagine that it’s made up of muscle since we’re often told to “exercise” our brain. The truth is, though, that the brain and the nervous system are made up mostly of fat. One type of fat in particular is critical for a healthy brain, nervous system, and for keeping you feeling mentally and emotionally good — omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, omega-3s are one of the main building blocks of the brain and contribute up to 18 percent of the brain’s weight.
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), that research has shown can promote a healthy mood. Interestingly, countries with diets rich in seafood, which is a rich source of omega-3s, report better statistics for overall mental wellness.
Since it’s an essential nutrient, the body can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, so you need to consume them from your diet.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring & mackerel
- Chia, hemp & flax seeds
- Oysters & shrimp
- Seaweed & algae
- Broccoli & spinach
- Canola oil (not heated)
Magnesium is one of the most important and abundant minerals in the body. It’s involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions and every cell in your body needs it to function. One of the many things magnesium does is help regulate and produce neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which help you feel happy and lift your mood.
Unfortunately, modern mass farming methods have depleted the soil of this vital nutrient, making magnesium deficiency remarkably common. Certain medications and health conditions can reduce the absorption of magnesium and influence our blood status.
Magnesium-rich foods include:
- Dark leafy greens like spinach or swiss chard
- Almonds & cashews
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate (at least 70-85% cocoa)
- Black beans
- Whole grains
Bask in the Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight. It stands to reason vitamin D deficiency is often associated with an indoor lifestyle, especially in winter, with limited sun exposure. Low levels of this sunny vitamin have been shown to play a role in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues.” This is probably because vitamin D contributes to the production of, you guessed it, serotonin and dopamine, the compounds that make you feel happy.
Some good mood vitamin D-rich foods are:
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna & cod
- Egg yolks
- Chanterelle mushrooms
C is for Contentment
The brain is a vitamin C guzzler, and there are higher concentrations of the nutrient in the brain than in the rest of the body. Vitamin C has been shown in research to enhance both mood and cognitive function in support of a sustained sense of well-being. This powerful antioxidant also provides critical support for maintaining a healthy nervous system. As just one example, Vitamin C is a cofactor in the synthesis of several neurotransmitters, and helps modulate the release of these compounds to nerve cells.
The options of foods high in vitamin C are almost endless as most fruits and vegetables are good sources.
Here are some with the highest concentrations of vitamin C:
- Bell & chili peppers
- Thyme & parsley
- Blackberries & strawberries
- Citrus fruits
- Rose hips
- Green veggies like kale, broccoli & spinach
- Acerola cherries
There is a strong communication link between our digestive system and our nervous system known as the gut-brain axis. Apart from the brain, the gut contains the largest area of nerves in the body — that’s why it’s often called the “second brain.” Serotonin is produced in both the brain and the gut, with most of the body’s serotonin actually being found in the GI tract.
Keeping the gut in peak condition, then, is essential for maintaining a healthy mood. Many fermented foods contain probiotics — live microorganisms that support the healthy “good” bacteria in your gut — that have been shown to boost your mood.
Probiotic-packed fermented foods include:
- Pickled vegetables
The best part about these foods that help make you feel happy is that they are great for many other aspects of your health too. So, indulge in a super-smoothie, pamper yourself with a glorious avocado toast, or grill up some seafood. Your brain, body, and mood will thank you.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.