When you’re feeling down, it can be tempting to turn to food to lift your spirits. However, the sugary, high calorie treats that many people resort to have negative consequences of their own. From a young age, we’re taught that eating well helps us look and feel our physical best. What we’re not always told is that good nutrition significantly affects our mental health too.
Recently, research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health has been emerging. Certain foods have been shown to improve overall brain health and certain types of mood disorders.
Here are some healthy foods that may boost your mood and improve your mental health as well:
1. Fatty fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own. Fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna are rich in two types of omega-3s (DHA and EPA) that are linked to lower levels of depression. EPA and DHA are crucial for brain and nervous system development. They have been shown to ward off depression. Studies indicate communities where people who consume more fatty fish are less likely to experience anxiety and depression, plus they can even affect our personalities and impulse control.
2. Fermented foods.
Research points to the important link between the gut and the brain. About 95% of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract, and that means making gut health a priority will help to improve our mood. This serotonin produced affects many facets of human behaviour, such as mood, stress response, appetite, and sexual drive. Fermented foods, which include kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, may improve gut health and mood. It’s important to note that not all fermented foods are significant sources of probiotics, such as in the case of beer, some breads, and wine, due to cooking and filtering. For a better mental health and a good mood, eating foods that promote your gut health is key.
3. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate makes you happy! It is rich in many mood-boosting compounds. Its sugar may improve mood since it’s a quick source of fuel for your brain. It boosts endorphins, and ananadamide,, otherwise known as ‘the bliss chemical’. Studies on chocolate show that it can improve mood and cognition, plus it’s a rich source of antioxidants, iron and magnesium to help us relax. Because milk chocolate contains added ingredients like sugar and fat, it’s best to opt for dark chocolate which is higher in flavonoids and lower in added sugar. Evidence indicates that chocolate is particularly helpful when eaten mindfully so don’t gobble it all down, savor it instead.
Bananas may help turn a frown upside down. They’re high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. One large banana provides 16 grams of sugar and 3.5 grams of fiber. When paired with fiber, sugar is released slowly into your bloodstream, allowing for stable blood sugar levels and better mood control. Blood sugar levels that are too low may lead to irritability and mood swings. Finally, this tropical fruit, especially when still showing green on the peel, is an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fiber that helps feed healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome is associated with lower rates of mood disorders.
Oats are a whole grain that can keep you in good spirits all morning. They’re an excellent source of fiber. Studies show that people who eat an appropriate amount of fiber at breakfast report better mood and energy levels. This is attributed to more stable blood sugar levels, which is important for controlling mood swings and irritability. Although other sources of whole grains can have this effect, oats may be especially advantageous, as they’re also a great source of iron. Iron deficiency anemia, one of the most common nutrient deficiencies, is associated with low iron intake. Its symptoms include fatigue, sluggishness, and mood disorders.
6. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Additionally, they provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources. Research has linked moderate nut intake to a lower risk of depression. Hence, it’s advisable to include more nuts and seeds into your daily diet.
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