We all know that what we eat affects our physical bodies, but did you know that certain foods can actually positively affect our mental health as well?
For thousands of years, traditional medicine has used food to address the challenges of mood, depression, and anxiety, among other ailments. Though much research needs to be done, there’s no doubt that what we eat affects our mental health.
What You Eat Can Affect Your Mood – Here’s How
Ever had one of those days where you can’t shake the funk, no matter how hard you try? You’re not alone. We’ve all been there. But did you know what you eat can significantly impact your mood?
That’s right – the food you consume can either make you feel better or worse. So, what should you eat to boost your mood if you’re feeling down?
Food and Mood: The Link between Diet and Your Emotions
Scientists have long known about the link between diet and mental health, and a growing body of evidence suggests that what we eat can influence how we feel. So, if you want to maintain a good mood, it’s essential to pay attention to the foods you’re regularly consuming.
Certain nutrients are essential for maintaining a positive mood. These include omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate, and Vitamin D.
Foods rich in these nutrients include salmon, dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, eggs, and fortified yogurt or milk.
In contrast, processed foods like cookies, cake, chips, and soda lack these essential nutrients and can make you feel worse.
How Food Affects Your Mood: The Science behind the Link
Now that we know which foods to eat (and which ones to avoid) to maintain a good mood, let’s take a closer look at the science behind the link between diet and emotions. Researchers believe that there are several ways in which diet can influence our feelings.
First, the nutrients found in healthy foods help support brain function and improve communication between brain cells. This is important because our mood is regulated by chemicals called neurotransmitters.
If our brain cells cannot communicate effectively with one another due to a lack of critical nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids or magnesium, our moods can suffer.
In addition, the gut microbiome—the collection of bacteria that live in our gut—has also been found to play a role in our mental health. Studies have shown that people who consume processed junk food are more likely to suffer from depression than those who eat a healthy diet.
Unhealthy foods like refined sugar can damage the gut microbiome and lead to inflammation throughout the body (including in the brain). As you can see, what we eat directly impacts how we feel physically and emotionally.
17 Mood Uplifting Foods
From dark chocolate to salmon, these 17 foods are a great way to start your day or add some variety to your current diet! These mood-uplifting foods can help us fight depression and anxiety and stabilize our moods.
This fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Amino acids like omega-3 have been shown to improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
Chocolate contains the compound phenethylamine, which stimulates the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone). Eating dark chocolate can improve mood and decrease stress levels.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown blueberries can improve memory function and enhance mood.
Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, which are live bacteria that have health benefits when consumed. Probiotics have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mood by improving gut health.
Herbs & Herbal Teas
Herbs have been used for centuries in many cultures to treat mood disorders. Though research varies and can be contradicting, these herbs have reported benefits. However, additional research is needed on these herbs’ role in regulating mood and mental health.
Chamomile tea has calming properties that can help relieve anxiety and promote relaxation, resulting in a better night’s sleep and improved mood.
St. Johns Wort
St. Johns Wort has been used to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, and mild depression with varying success.
Milk Thistle has anti-inflammatory properties as well as offering protection from free radicals. These cognition-protecting factors can help maintain and improve brain function.
Nettle has been proven, in animal studies, to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. However, more research is needed to establish the same benefit for people. However, for centuries, traditional medicine has used stinging nettle to lower stress and blood pressure.
Spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, iron, and folate. These nutrients are essential for many body processes, including the production of serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter).
Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, copper, manganese, and biotin (a B vitamin). These nutrients are essential for maintaining brain health, which can impact mood.
Avocados are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins C, E, K, and B6. Avocados are high in potassium, which is essential for maintaining nerve function and muscle health.
Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamins B2, B6, B12, D, E, and folate. They also contain choline (an essential nutrient for brain health). All of these essential nutrients have a role in maintaining mental health and preventing depression.
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A, C, and B6. They also contain fiber, potassium, and manganese. These nutrients play a role in maintaining proper blood sugar levels, which can impact mood.
Oats are a good source of fiber, vitamin B1, and magnesium. Fiber helps regulate digestion. Vitamin B1 helps convert carbohydrates into energy, and magnesium is necessary for muscle function. These nutrients are essential for maintaining physical health, leading to improved moods.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. This mineral plays a role in metabolism, thyroid function, reproduction, and detoxification. Selenium deficiencies have been linked to fatigue and low moods.
Broccoli is rich in vitamins C and K and calcium, potassium, and fiber. These nutrients play a role in maintaining muscle function, nerve function, and cardiovascular health.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene (an antioxidant) as well as vitamins A and C. Lycopene has been linked to several health benefits, including heart health and cancer prevention. The antioxidants in tomatoes can also help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink containing live bacteria (probiotics), proteins, vitamins B12 and D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Drinking kefir can fight depression.
Green tea is packed with antioxidants (catechins) linked to several health benefits, including reduced inflammation. The high antioxidant content of green tea makes it an excellent choice for those looking to improve their overall health and mood through diet.
Beets are rich in nitrates as well as vitamins A & C. Nitrates have been shown to widen blood vessels and increase blood flow. This increased blood flow has been linked to several benefits, including increased muscle endurance.
Are you feeling down today? Reach for a snack from this list to lift you up instead of comfort food desserts like cake or cookies that bring you down.
The Bottom Line
What we eat directly impacts how we feel physically and mentally. If you think your diet might be negatively impacting your mood, you can take steps to change that.
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