Have you ever felt really happy after a great meal? Was it the company, the comfort of a familiar dish, or was it something else? The foods that we eat contribute nutrients that can play a big role in our moods. If you have been looking for a more uplifting point of view, change what’s going on your plate. Here are ten foods to include in your diet when you want to improve your mood.
Shellfish is an excellent source of vitamin B12, which has been linked with higher incidence of reducing depression. Vitamin B12 is responsible for the creation of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin. When these neurotransmitters are inhibited by a deficiency in B12, it could negatively affect your mood.
Serotonin is a brain chemical known as a neurotransmitter that is important in the regulation of mood and sleep. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to anxiety, depression, and even aggressive behavior.
Luckily, vitamin B12 and other nutrients naturally support serotonin production to help elevate mood.
One cup of chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, provides 73 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin B6. Like B12, vitamin B6 also plays a role in producing dopamine and serotonin. Researchers have found that higher levels of both of these B vitamins are linked to a reduced risk of depression.
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin,” because our bodies manufacture it from exposure to UV light. There are a few food sources of vitamin D, however, and tuna is one of them. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood disorders, particularly Seasonal Affective Disorder. Researchers have found that the lower a person’s vitamin D levels, the greater the chance they could suffer from depression. Eating fatty fish like tuna and salmon could help reduce the risk of a vitamin D deficiency, and the mood effects that deficiency brings with it.
Lentils are the food highest in folate, a B complex vitamin that has been studied as far back as the 1960s for its link to depression. Studies found a high incidence of patients with depression have folate deficiency. Like other members of the B-complex family, folate appears to play a role in the production of serotonin. Eating lentils regularly can help naturally increase levels of this neurotransmitter. Try this recipe for lentil chili for a comfort food that will really lift your mood!
5. Black Beans
A single cup of black beans has as much as 15g of fiber. What does fiber have to do with mood? Fiber can decrease the absorption of sugars into your bloodstream, decreasing mood swings that can accompany spikes in blood glucose (sugar) levels. If you find your mood spinning out of control when you get very hungry, or get grumpy after a meal when your blood sugar levels drop, getting more fiber from foods like black beans can help stabilize mood and lessen the blood sugar spikes.
Your mom was right to insist that you eat your broccoli. Broccoli is a great source of chromium, an essential mineral that as many as 90% of Americans are low in. Chromium plays a role in how your body regulates blood sugar levels through the hormone insulin. Controlling blood sugar levels, slowing the absorption of blood sugars into the bloodstream, and diminishing extreme spikes in blood sugars are ways to help stabilize your mood and reduce blood sugar related crankiness.
Proteins like turkey contain the amino acid tryptophan, and tryptophan is the building block for serotonin. Getting enough protein is extremely important to keep serotonin levels up in the brain. You know that sleepy, relaxed, contented feeling you get after the big Thanksgiving dinner? That is the tryptophan, doing it’s job and increasing serotonin levels. Turkey is one of the best protein sources of tryptophan.
The Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in large amounts in salmon support healthy neurotransmitter pathways, and people who cannot metabolize Omega-3s normally have been found to have higher risk of depression. Salmon is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, one of the nutrients needed for serotonin production in the brain.
9. Flax Seed
Flax seeds are a great food for anyone trying to boost their mood, but particularly vegans and vegetarians. Flax seeds and flax seed oil are an excellent plant source of both tryptophan and Omega-3 essential fatty acids that raise serotonin levels.
Almonds contain a large amount of magnesium, an essential mineral that plays a role in the body’s ability to relax. Magnesium tells your bones, muscles, and brain to relax and unwind, and can help you get a good night’s sleep. Getting adequate sleep is crucial to a relaxed and happy state of mind. Another way to get more magnesium in your system is with an Epsom salt bath, so pour yourself a glass of almond milk and hop in the tub before bedtime. Not only will you sleep better, you will feel more relaxed in your body and your mind.
Whether these foods support the production of brain chemicals that make you feel good, reduce the likelihood of sugar crashes, or help you get a better night’s sleep, they all add up to an improved mood.