Are you trying to improve your mood? It might surprise you, but one of the best ways to do so is by changing your diet.
Foods contain chemical substances that act on your body’s hormones and neurotransmitters to keep them functioning as they should. If you notice yourself feeling more anxious and depressed with no discernible cause, try one of these seven foods that boost your mood.
Does the mere mention of chocolate make you smile? If so, you aren’t crazy, nor do you have an overactive sweet tooth. The dark, creamy stuff contains compounds that can improve your mood and even benefit your overall health. That’s right — a little bit of chocolate is healthy for you.
Dark chocolate and cacao contain tryptophan, an amino acid you might associate with your post-Thanksgiving dinner coma. However, this substance also plays a vital role in serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter critical for regulating your mood and encouraging a sense of well-being.
While you don’t want to go overboard, you shouldn’t feel bad about the occasional chocolate indulgence. This food contains flavonoids similar to those found in fruits and vegetables that provide valuable protection against free radical damage. Some evidence suggests that chocolate might even lower your risk of heart disease, which remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide.
When it comes to natural mood-boosters, you can’t go wrong with nuts and seeds. These foods contain several vital minerals that are vital for optimal neurological functioning.
One such mineral is magnesium. This substance can spur rapid improvements in major depression among patients who have an underlying deficiency. Another study found that the nutrient worked as effectively as a tricyclic antidepressant in treating some forms of the disorder.
Selenium and zinc likewise encourage the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. A single Brazil nut contains your full recommended daily allowance of selenium. Zinc does double duty, helping you shore up your immune system against colds and flu.
Researchers continue to discover more about the gut-brain connection. They now know that your intestinal bacteria send messages to other parts of your body, influencing physiological processes. Too many or too few specific varieties can affect your mood.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics — healthy bacteria that replenish the colonies in your gut. Yogurt is one common example of such a product, and sauerkraut is another. You can ferment nearly any vegetable. If you don’t enjoy the flavor or texture of such dishes, you can also drink your probiotics as kombucha or kefir.
Omega-3 fatty acids play vital roles in brain and neurotransmitter function. Inadequate levels of these substances can affect your brain’s dopamine levels, leading to neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression.
Fish and seafood are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Why not make like the Catholics and have a fish fry each Friday? Eating such meals twice a week may do double duty, boosting your mood while reducing your heart disease risk.
Beans and lentils make the perfect pairing when you include them along with fermented foods in your diet. These dishes contain tons of fiber, a prebiotic that you can’t digest but upon which your intestinal flora feed. They can help maintain a healthy colony while making “the go” easier by solidifying your stools.
These substances also provide a healthy source of vegetarian protein. Why not mix up a batch of burritos to keep in your freezer and take-along for a healthy lunch in seconds? You can also add beans and lentils to salads and stews.
What do antioxidants do? These substances lend electrons to free radicals, neutralizing them before they can invade your body’s cells, causing damage. A lack of the right kind in your brain can result in cellular changes that influence your mood.
Berries are rich in antioxidants like resveratrol and anthocyanins. Plus, you can add them to multiple dishes. They add a sweet savoriness to salads. You can also toss a handful in your morning smoothie or cereal.
If your blue mood stems from feeling tired, try eating a banana. Although high in sugar, these fruits also have sufficient fiber to release it slowly into your bloodstream, keeping your levels stable.
Additionally, bananas contain high levels of vitamin B6. This substance helps your body synthesize dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters associated with mood.
The next time you feel low, consider changing your diet. Try one of these seven foods that boost your mood.