9 Mood-Boosting Foods

When you’re down in the dumps, it may be tempting to stuff your face with sweets and cook up some heavy comfort food. These foods may make you feel a little better for an hour or two, but eventually, that satisfaction will turn into regret. Why did you eat the whole pint of ice cream and an entire box of macaroni and cheese?

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, it’s best to turn to healthy, nutritious foods that will boost your mood in the long run. Feel good — mentally and physically — by incorporating the following items into your diet. 

  1. Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon provide omega-3 fatty acids, which the human body can’t make on its own. These acids appear to play a key role in brain development and signaling. Thus, consuming more salmon may minimize depression, especially in women. It’s also a good source of vitamins D and B12, both of which are known mood boosters.

2. Fermented Foods

Consuming beverages and foods that have undergone a fermentation process, like kimchi, yogurt and kombucha, may also boost your mood. These items contain living bacteria that convert sugars into alcohol and acids, thereby creating probiotics. When you consume them, the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines increases and boosts serotonin levels. Your gut stores roughly 95% of your body’s serotonin, so it’s important to feed this organ well.

3. Chocolate

If you’ve ever dug into a pint of chocolate ice cream or consumed a candy bar, you’ve probably experienced the mood-boosting effects of chocolate. Its sugar will improve both your energy and your mood — at least in the short term. However, chocolate also contains caffeine, theobromine and N-acylethanolamine, all of which may boost your spirits. It’s also high in flavonoids, which increase blood flow to the brain and can support mood regulation.  

4. Oats

Whole grains aren’t just a good source of dietary fiber. They’re also high in iron, and oats are no exception. One cup of raw oats contains 2.11 milligrams of iron, providing more than 20% of your daily needs. Those who fail to include oats and other sources of iron in their diet are more likely to suffer from anemia, a nutrient deficiency with symptoms like fatigue and mood disorders. Therefore, if you want to stay happy, healthy and energized, eating oats is a good choice.

5. Coffee

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, and it’s easy to see why. From frappucinos to lattes, coffee puts a smile on peoples’ faces. Aside from being downright delicious, coffee can also boost your mood by increasing the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Both decaf and regular coffee can have this effect, which suggests there are other compounds aside from caffeine that positively influence mood.

6. Lentils

Legumes like lentils are also full of feel-good nutrients like zinc, magnesium and selenium. They contain B vitamins, which boost levels of serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid. All these neurotransmitters are important for mood regulation and. If your body lacks B vitamins like folate and B12, you may be more likely to suffer from mood swings and depression. 

7. Eggs

Like lentils, eggs are also high in B12. They also contain choline, a nutrient that improves mood, produces those feel-good neurotransmitters and supports the nervous system. Like salmon, they are high in omega-3s and vitamins A and D. Eggs also contain zinc and selenium, which help fight anxiety. Plus, your body can absorb nearly 100% of the raw yolk without needing to digest it, making it one of the easiest foods for your body to metabolize.

8. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes also act as huge mood-boosters because they contain beta-carotene, which functions as an antioxidant. Antioxidants work to neutralize unstable free radicals in the body and prevent oxidative stress. This can cause you to develop chronic disease and conditions like anxiety and depression. The carbs in sweet potatoes also support serotonin production to boost your mood.

9. Nuts

A handful of nuts may be all you need to have a happy, healthy day. Almonds, cashews and walnuts provide tryptophan, an amino acid that produces serotonin. Brazil nuts, almonds and pine nuts also contain zinc and selenium — just like eggs and lentils. Moreover, studies show that people with a moderate nut intake may have a 23% lower risk of developing depression.

Eat Well, Live Better

Eating food that supports mood regulation is key to living a happy and healthy life. However, regular exercise, self-care, meditation, and other practices can also positively impact your mind, body and spirit. Therefore, it’s important to maintain a healthy routine and treat yourself with love to feel better and improve your outlook.