Feel like you woke up from the wrong side of the bed today? Well, it could partly be your diet to blame. New research says consuming the right nutrients could elevate your mood, relieve stress, ease anxiety and in the long run, might even fight depression. So if you’re feeling a bit run down, don’t reach out for that bag of chips or that tub of ice cream.
In a recent clinical study known as the SMILES trial, researchers split nearly 70 people into two groups, all diagnosed with depression, and all on poor diets. The first group switched to a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, low-fat dairy, fish, eggs, seeds and nuts, and had no form of therapy. The second group consumed sweets, processed deli meats and salty snacks, and met regularly with a support group.
After three months, the first group showed fewer symptoms of depression than the second group. In fact, more than a third of them no longer even met the criteria for being depressed.
Want to see what the right foods can do for your mood and mental health? Go ahead and try adding these mood-boosting foods to your daily diet.
Want to beat the Monday Blues? The best way to do so is adding oats to your breakfast. Since they have low glycaemic index (GI) – they slowly release energy into the bloodstream, which maintains the blood sugar levels in the body and keeps the mood stable. They also contain a mood-boosting called mineral selenium.
Go bananas! They contain amino acid tryptophan as well as vitamins A, B6 and C, fiber, potassium, phosphorous, iron and carbohydrate. Mood-boosting carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, while vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into the mood-lifting hormone serotonin. Because of its ability to raise serotonin levels, tryptophan has been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, such as insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Lentils help increase the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, as they are complex carbohydrates, which results in a calmer and happier state of mind. They stabilize your blood sugar levels, keeping your mood in check. They’re also high in folate, and deficiency in folate is linked to depression. And finally, lentils can help up your iron levels, which give you a great boost of energy.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach are rich in B vitamins. Important B vitamins to look out for include folate, vitamins B3, B6 and B12. Deficiencies in B vitamins are linked with depression, as serotonin production can actually be hindered by low B vitamin levels. Make sure to eat your greens to keep your mood levels up!
Just a small square of dark chocolate makes the brain release endorphins and boost serotonin levels. In a recent study, 30 people were given 40g of dark chocolate, over 14 days. The results showed that chocolate eaters produced less stress hormones and their anxiety levels decreased.
Good news for worrywarts: Regularly eating salmon—and mackerel, tuna, herring and other fatty fish—can help lower anxiety, research shows. Experts say it's because of their omega-3 fatty acids, a key mood-boosting nutrient and one our bodies don't produce. Omega-3s alter brain chemicals linked with mood—specifically dopamine and serotonin. In one randomized, controlled study, medical students who took omega-3 supplements before an exam reduced their anxiety symptoms by as much as 20 percent.
With more antioxidants than any other common fruit or vegetable, blueberries deliver a bushel of brain-boosting benefits. Thanks mostly to a type of antioxidant called flavonoids, blueberries help regulate mood, improve memory and protect the brain from aging. And some experts say they may do even more. One recent animal study suggests the anti-inflammatory chemicals in blueberries may be helpful in treating PTSD and other serious mental health problems.
Yogurt and probiotics
There's lots of buzz these days about probiotics—fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut that help keep your gut bacteria in check. Recent studies in both animals and humans suggest links between balanced gut bacteria and better mood, less stress and anxiety, and lower risk of depression. A recent review of 10 small but solid studies found that eating probiotics for depression and anxiety seemed to help some folks, but not others. The bottom line? Slurping a refreshing yogurt smoothie now and then won't hurt your moods—and it may help.
This mood boosting food is a great go-to for protein, magnesium, fibre and Vitamin E. As an antioxidant, Vitamin E can help combat free radical damage in the brain and has been shown to improve memory and cognition. Have them on their own as a snack, incorporate them into trail mix or granola, make your own dairy-free almond milk, or use the almond pulp in a variety of delicious ways.