What’s the first thing you reach for when you’re feeling a bit low? Lots of people reach for a bag of crisps, or maybe some deep fried chicken, or ice cream. If it cheers us up, what’s wrong with that?
Actually, there’s nothing wrong with that. A little of what you fancy often does you good, but the key word here is ‘little’. If you want foods to improve mood and energy over the long term it’s important to also think long term. We may love all those sweet, fried, salty and fatty foods, but mostly we realise these need consuming in moderation.
The human body has a different response for each kind of food that is introduced into it. Foods filled with carbohydrates, e.g., deep fried treats, pasta, and white breads can taste good, but often leave a bloated feeling after eating them. Consuming a poor diet can also negatively affect mood, and a poor mood will, in the long run, have a negative effect on the immune system. It can also slow down weight loss processes, while at the same time contributing to the development of tension headaches. Luckily, there exist foods that boost moods. Mood enhancing foods are readily available and you probably already enjoy some of them.
Feel Good Foods
Finally, science has been able to back up what we felt we already knew: chocolate can help make us happy! A study conducted at the Nestle Research Center, located in Switzerland, found that consuming a small amount of chocolate (1.4 ounces) each day, for a period of fourteen days, played an important role in reducing cortisol, and other stress related hormones. The study was conducted with people who were undergoing stressful situations. The positive effects of chocolate could be due to antioxidants found naturally in dark chocolate. So, the next time you are feeling stressed, get yourself this block of happiness food and snap a piece off. But, (there’s always a but) as you are indulging yourself, make sure that you account for the more than two hundred calories found in a chocolate bar, or you may soon start stressing over the extra weight you’re piling on.
Fish Helps Moods
Do you find yourself routinely experiencing one form of stress or another? Well, there is good news for you. Research shows that eating salmon, herring, tuna, and mackerel on a regular basis can help lower your stress levels. This is possible because of the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids play an important role in boosting our moods because the body is not able to naturally produce these vital nutrients. Omega-3 nutrients are known to alter the chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine) that are linked to ours moods. In one random controlled study, students sitting for a medical exam were given omega-3 supplements before the exam, and the findings indicate that those who took the supplements reduced their anxiety related symptoms by as much as twenty percent.
Green tea has a well established track record. When you are having a bad day, prepare a cup of green tea and slowly sip it as you go about your daily activities. The tea will help soothe your senses, brighten your dark mood, and also help calm your nerves. Researchers believe that taking green tea will help you reap additional benefits. A Japanese study, published in the American Nutritional Journal, found that taking 2-3 cups of tea each day helped elderly people reduce depression-related symptoms. This could be due to the presence of mood-boosting nutrients that are found in green tea, e.g., amino acid and L-theanine, both of which play a critical role in fighting anxiety. Green tea also happens to contain caffeine, which is essential for when you need a quick pick-me-up.
Oysters have traditionally been known as a natural aphrodisiac. However, they also have mood-boosting benefits which go well beyond your bedroom walls. Oysters are happiness foods that happen to be high in zinc. This is a nutrient that is well known for helping people ease anxiety related symptoms. Zinc can also help you improve sleep quality. Once you get used to it, they say, eating oysters can be a lot of fun. If you are not into sea foods, you can eat yourself happy by getting your zinc from other foods (see infographic above).
Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other known vegetable or fruit. Eating blueberries on a regular basis will provide the brain with numerous brain-boosting benefits. They help the brain regulate mood levels due to the presence of an antioxidant known as flavonoids. In addition, they also help protect the brain from aging, and at the same time assist in improving recall rate. Blueberries can be used in treating patients with PTSD as well as other memory-related problems.
According to Dr. Axe, close to half of all Americans do not get the required amounts of magnesium. This is a mineral that performs many functions in the body, one of them being to assist in reducing anxiety. Leafy greens like swiss chard and spinach come loaded with magnesium. Eating them on a regular basis will be a great way to make sure that you get to boost our brain health. We can also get this mineral from foods such as, avocados, almonds, and lentils.
There has recently been a lot of buzz surrounding probiotics, and the benefits they provide to the human body. Probiotics include fermented food products like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt. These happiness foods assist in ensuring there is a balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. When gut bacteria are balanced, we may be more likely to have a lower risk of becoming depressed, experiencing stress, or being anxious. However, caution needs to be exercised. A review of ten recent studies showed that taking probiotics to fight depression and anxiety worked for some people, but failed for others. Therefore, the bottom line is that taking a fresh bowl of yogurt every once in a while will certainly not hurt your moods, and who knows, there are possible good benefits.