Did you know that certain mood-boosting foods can help ease stress? You may be tempted to reach for simple carbs and sugars (i.e., comfort food) when you’re feeling run down or blue, but research shows that healthy, mood-boosting foods can improve your state of mind and increase energy. If you’re feeling depressed, battling anxiety, or struggling with fatigue, the following foods can help lift your spirits.
Coconut has been shown to calm the body’s “fight or flight" response when stressed. Its scent can regulate blood pressure, and the oils found in coconut are a nutritious source of energy. Medium chain triglycerides, like those in coconut, are used by the body as energy — instead of being stored as fat. Coconut is a great food to soothe you while keeping you from feeling sluggish throughout the day.
Chocolate, in moderation, can be very helpful. A recent study shows that eating about an ounce each day reduces stress hormones, including cortisol. Also, being high in iron and magnesium, a few squares of dark chocolate in the afternoon can help energize you and stop you from binging on junkier sweets. Remember to opt for dark chocolate that is 70 percent cacao or higher to minimize your intake of refined sugar.
Raw nuts are loaded with mood-boosting serotonin, which is depleted when you feel depressed. Raw nuts are also rich in healthy fats and antioxidants. Some great snacking options are almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and walnuts.
Quinoa is a gluten-free ancient grain (it’s actually a seed). Rich in amino acids (like cysteine, lysine, and methionine), quinoa is considered a complete source of protein. In fact, it has more protein than any other grain. Quinoa is also high in magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, making it a healthy carbohydrate source for lasting energy throughout the day.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a good option, of course. They are nutritious and provide powerful support for your mood and energy. Studies show that the high levels of antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables are associated with lower levels of depression. People with diets rich in whole foods are less likely to report depressed moods than those who eat processed and refined carbohydrates, processed meats, and sugary desserts.
Wild-caught salmon is one of the best foods for better moods and brain health. One serving of wild salmon offers about double the recommended daily allowance for B12, and high levels of B12 are key to successfully overcoming depression. Salmon is also rich in brain- and mood-boosting essential fatty acids. Eating oily, fatty fish ups your levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which positively impact mood-altering brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
Avocado is an amazing food for your overall health, raising your mood, and supporting great brain function. Avocados can improve digestion and protect heart health, are powerful hormone balancers, and support your brain in making all the right chemicals to keep your moods up — making you healthier, happier, and more resilient against stress.
While a brisk walk outside, a serene meditation session, and a great workout all do wonders for depression, anxiety, and stress levels, don’t ignore the link between great nutrition and mood. Reaching for sugary comfort foods when we’re feeling low can keep us trapped in a vicious cycle of energy highs, followed by the inevitable crash and burn. Instead, opt for nutrient-rich and satisfying whole mood-boosting foods. These will not only meet your needs for comfort and satiety, but will also alter your brain chemistry in positive and powerful ways. They leave you feeling better, healthier, and more energized to meet the demands of your day.