Eat These Foods to Boost Your Mood

  • Written By:Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN
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Did you know certain foods can also help support our mood and even temper our anxiety?

The past few months have left many of us craving friends, hugs, a chilled glass of rosé, and a sense of normalcy. I don’t know about you guys, but my mood has taken quite a hit these past few months. Some days are good, some days are not, but what I have noticed is that sunny days lift my spirits a lot, as does exercise, socializing (even through Zoom), dancing (in your living room), listening to music and, of course, eating the right diet. Did you know certain foods can also help support our mood and even temper our anxiety?

Since we are not experts on dancing (there is a reason you haven’t seen me on Tiktok), we’ll stay in our own lane and focus on nutrition. We are passionate about delicious and nutritious food, but are also still amazed by food’s ability to affect our emotions both psychologically and chemically. Now seems like a good time to talk about this. When it comes to food and mood the areas we like to focus on include digestion, healthy fats, plants...and chocolate!

Keep it Moving

Anything that promotes smooth digestion will positively impact how you feel, especially as we approach bathing suit season (yes, even if you are sunbathing on your balcony instead of a beach). To improve motility, we recommend adding whole, antioxidant and fiber-rich foods like berries, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onion, and asparagus to your diet. Not only are all of these gems low in calories, they also provide prebiotics, the indigestible fibers that your “good” gut bacteria needed to keep you fit and healthy. Additionally, fermented foods including yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir provide the probiotics (the actual bacteria) to keep you going (no pun intended) and assist in the release of serotonin, our “happy” hormone!

Vitamin C

Speaking of plants, we are all in when it comes to foods rich in vitamin C — strawberries, red peppers, kiwi and oranges. Vitamin C doesn’t just prevent sniffles and wrinkles (no thank you!), but it also helps with the production of endorphins, those same feel good hormones that are released after a hard workout. (Yes, you can feel good without sweating, although we are big fans of fitness, too!) So add strawberries to your smoothie, citrus to your saladm and dip red peppers into your hummus for smiles all around.

Cacao, our favorite plant

Hellllooooo chocolate! Just eating chocolate alone makes you feel good because it’s rich and delicious. Dark chocolate and cacao also contain amino acids that stimulate the production of endorphins and serotonin. Research shows that serotonin levels increase with the concentration of cacao, so the darker the chocolate (70% or higher) or cacao content the better. (It comes from a bean, so it’s basically salad...right?)

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Good for you fats

Omega 3 fatty acids are our next favorite - found in salmon, walnuts, chia, hemp, algae, and flax seeds. The reason we love these fats so much isn’t just because they keep us full, it’s also because of their amazing anti-inflammatory properties. They protect our heart, our brain and have been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in patients who suffer from depression. Additionally, they help to regulate neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin which can have calming properties and also help our brains adapt to change, helping us better handle stress and anxiety. And yes, even if you haven’t been diagnosed, feeling a bit down in the dumps due to recent events is absolutely OK, and these foods just might help you, too. How do we recommend you get your O3’s in today? Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish per week (frozen filets and canned fish count!), and try sprinkling chia into your oatmeal, cooking with Algae Oil (have you tried Thrive?) and stir some hemp into your yogurt!

Sugar Busters

Now, what should you avoid (most of the time anyway)? Generally speaking inflammatory foods cause bad moods, so avoid processed ingredients including white sugars and flours, baked goods (unless you make your own breads — yes they are trending) and candy. Sure sometimes it’s gotta happen, just balance it out with veggies, fermented foods, heart healthy fats and even a piece of dark chocolate.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to hydrate, being dehydrated can cause you to feel anxious, achy, tired and lethargic. Eat and drink to your heart’s content, just let your good choices outweigh the bad and you’ll find yourself smiling in no time!

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