Not only does what we put into our bodies have physical effects like weight gain or building muscle mass, but it also has emotional effects that can either elevate or sink our moods. Basically, all foods are broken down into their chemical properties by our digestive systems to feed our cells, and can either raise or lower blood pressure. Here are the top mood-boosting foods to make you feel good every day:
Dark, leafy greens
Spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, kale and other leafy greens contain folate, which is needed by the brain to make serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – the so-called "mood chemicals." Research has shown that a boost of folate can improve the mood. Also, leafy greens are bountiful with magnesium, a nutrient that can increase our energy levels and possibly stave off or reduce depression.
These shellfish have the highest naturally occurring levels of vitamin B12 of any food on earth. Many people are B12-deficient because this essential vitamin for brain health is only found in a small number of foods. But vitamin B12 is important for producing myelin, which protects the brain's neurons. Mussels also have iodine, zinc and selenium, which might be good for balancing your mood. Aside from eating these healthy mollusks, do an extra dose of good by choosing farmed mussels raised in the U.S. to ensure they're a good environmental decision too.
Salmon is an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical in both heart and brain health and can reduce the chance of depression. You can also find omega-3s in flaxseed, walnuts, sardines and olive oil, and milk, eggs and other foods are sometimes fortified with these important fatty acids.
Sure, you've heard that turkey has tryptophan, which can make you sleepy. But asparagus is one of the vegetables with the highest dose of tryptophan, which is very important for its role in serotonin creation. Serotonin is one of the main mood-regulators in the brain. Asparagus also has high levels of folate, which can improve the mood. An extra bonus: The enzymes in asparagus are good at breaking down alcohol in your system and preventing a hangover.
Sugar can be very damaging to the body because of its harmful free radicals, which are linked to various diseases. But honey makes an excellent substitute to flavor your tea or oatmeal with. It has quercetin and kaempferol – compounds that can banish free radicals and reduce inflammation. Much research has shown that inflammation is likely detrimental to brain health and may lead to depression in some instances. Honey could be a good food to potentially have an impact on brain health.
Other diet tips
Aside from enjoying these foods to boost your mood, there are foods you should avoid and eating rules you should follow to improve your emotional health:
- Eat regularly. Don't skip a meal or you'll risk feeling cranky. Eat a filling breakfast with complex carbs like oatmeal, which will help you stay full longer.
- Do your best to avoid processed foods. They usually have plenty of sugar and bleached white flour, which can give you an energy boost quickly but make you crash sooner too. If you're in the mood for cookies, it's healthier to make your own using whole grain flour, for example.
- When eating meat, opt for grass-fed if you can. Grass-fed meats contain a higher amount of omega-3s than grain-fed animals.
- Try to eat more veggies, fruits and whole grains.
- Limit the amount of caffeine you ingest – it gives you a quick boost but can leave you feeling anxious and irritable.