Want to improve your mood?

You know how they say the way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach? Well it’s true—at least partially. What we put into our stomach has a direct effect on feelings and emotions (just think about the regret you feel after a fast food binge!)

Supporting your gut, heart and brain with body-nourishing foods often inspires a healthier range of feelings and moods. Eating these five mood super-boosting foods can have a strong effect on your current disposition by stimulating moods via specific vitamins and nutrients. Each one individually can enhance mood, but the combination of all 5 can provide support to overall mood improvement. Let’s break down each one into its nutritional ingredients and its specific effect on mood:

1. Milk

Milk really does do a body good. It is a good source of vitamin D (the sunshine, feel-good vitamin) and anxiety-reducing calcium. The real superstar component of milk though is tryptophan. If it sounds familiar, it’s the stuff in turkey that is rumored to make you sleepy. It doesn’t by the way. What tryptophan really does is build-up serotonin in the brain, an amino acid that promotes feelings of well-being and even mild euphoria. Vitamin D supports serotonin as well, making milk a double-whammy mood booster.

Alternate foods: for our lactose intolerant friends soy milk and almond milk are high in vitamin D as well, and turkey and all soy-based products are also good sources of tryptophan.

2. Salmon

Fish, especially oily varieties like salmon, contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA are potent anti-inflammatory agents that can help increase blood flow to the heart and brain, which helps stimulate healthy activity and mood improvement. Studies have shown that people who consume 500 to 1,000mgs of DHA/EPA daily may reduce stress, anxiety, sleep problems and depression by up to 50%.

Alternate foods: if salmon is not appealing or you want to mix it up, sardines, herring and mackerel are also good sources of DHA and EPA. If you simply cannot fathom the idea of eating fish everyday you can find eggs and milk fortified with fatty acids, or try a fish-oil supplement. Vegetarians and vegans can consume walnuts, avocados and ground flaxseed for non-animal omega-3 sources.

3. Chocolate

Women have known for years that chocolate is a mood-elevating substance, although few know why. Chocolate contains large amounts of serotonin and phenylethylamine, two compounds that stimulate healthy moods. It also stimulates the release of endorphins. Another thing chocolate does is increase theta brain waves, the ones that create that peaceful feeling right before sleep. But, before you rush out to the store for a Kit Kat bar, you need larger quantities of purer chocolate, like that found in 70%+ dark chocolate bars, raw chocolate and cocoa.

Alternate foods: pfft, just eat chocolate!

4. Spinach

Spinach is a nutrient-rich superfood that contains vitamin K, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin A, B and C, potassium, protein, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc, dietary fiber, copper, anti- oxidants, selenium, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s high levels of B vitamins means it can act as a natural anti-depressant, and its selenium and omega-3’s are some of nature’s great mood boosters.

Alternate foods: sorry, you’re going to have to deal with the spinach, but sneaking it into meals or shakes is an easy way to consume decent quantities.

5. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of the antioxidant selenium. In fact they contain 2,500 time more selenium than any other nut and you only need a single Brazil nut per day to get your daily dose of selenium. Don’t overdo it though, because they have a high fat content.

Alternate foods: sunflower seeds are a good source of selenium as well, and can be eaten in higher quantities as a snack food as they are significantly lower in fat than Brazil nuts. They also contain vitamin E, essential amino acids, tryptophan and magnesium.

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