Food does more than power your physical health. It can help improve your mood and lift your spirits. Think back to the last healthy meal you ate, packed with the vitamins and nutrients your body and brain needed. Chances are you went through the rest of the day with the energy and positive attitude you needed to tackle your to-do list or power through your workout.
In comparison, think about the last time you overindulged. Maybe it was way too many chips or a second helping of dessert. You were probably left feeling bloated, tired and a little crabby. It turns out this mind-body connection is real. Research has shown that certain foods can elevate “feel-good” chemicals responsible for helping us feel our best in body, mind and spirit.
So next time you’re looking to boost your mood, skip the tempting junk food and reach for one of these healthy foods for a pick-me-up.
Read through any healthy eating article and you’ll likely see avocado listed. This powerhouse fruit packs a punch when it comes to delivering nutrients, amino acids and healthy fats.
Three nutrients in particular may help improve your mood.
Just one-half of an avocado provides your body with 21% of the recommended daily intake of folate. This nutrient plays an important role in promoting a healthy pregnancy and may even reduce the risk of depression. And research shows that folate helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine, which can interfere with the production of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine — important chemicals that regulate mood, sleep and appetite.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to play an important role in fighting inflammation in the brain and regulate the chemicals and signals the brain sends.
Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which helps elevate your mood.
Blueberries are a great source of antioxidants, which are nutrients responsible for many great health benefits, including possibly preventing or delaying cell damage. Blueberries have an estimated 9.2 mmol of antioxidants per 3.5 ounces, which make it one of the best fruit sources of antioxidants. One specific type of antioxidant found in blueberries, called flavonoids, have also been associated with improving your mood, along with antihistamine, antimicrobial and memory-enhancing benefits.
Broccoli is a great source of B vitamin folate. Just like with avocado, researchers have found that low levels of folate increase the risk of depression, fatigue and poor memory. The potassium in broccoli can also help stabilize your mood by maintaining a healthy nervous system and brain function.
Brown or Wild Rice
Brown and wild rice provide whole grains, which are a good source of the B vitamins important for brain health. This includes thiamine (vitamin B1), which turns glucose into the energy your brain and body need to power through your day. Another important B vitamin to lift your spirits is pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), which helps support learning and memory.
If you’re not a fan of brown or wild rice, you can also reach for:
- Steel-cut oatmeal
Salmon delivers omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to happier moods and a healthier heart. This fatty fish also has high levels of the B vitamin folate, which helps your brain produce chemicals that lift your mood.
You can also try these great sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Canola oil
- Chia seeds
Yogurt contains probiotics, live microorganisms associated with a wide range of health benefits, including healthy digestion. The bacteria in our gut sends signals to our brain. Researchers have begun to study this brain-body connection and its role in our mood and mental health. When they reviewed previously published studies, they even found probiotics had a positive impact on depression symptoms.
Next time you’re grocery shopping, try finding yogurt with live cultures of probiotics and see if it helps you feel better in mind and body.
Other great sources of probiotics include:
It’s Not Just What You Eat, It’s How You Eat
You know the saying “you are what you eat.” But we don’t usually consider how we eat to be as important.
Healthy habits, like eating regular meals and making breakfast a priority, keep your body fueled all day long and help you accomplish the tasks on your to-do list. You may be familiar with that ‘hangry’ feeling when it’s been too long between meals.
Try to keep these eating habits a priority to stay full, happy and productive:
- Eat breakfast every day
- Pack a filling snack that includes a protein and vegetable
- Head outdoors for vitamin D
- Limit caffeine
- Reduce alcohol intake