We all have moments of feeling down or blah and usually, a great exercise sesh can kick those doldrums to the curb. But when you’re feeling a little blue, adding mood-boosting foods to your diet may help, too. You’ve heard that you are what you eat and if the foods you’re eating are making you feel lethargic and in a funk, then it’s time to nosh on some upgraded meals.
Read on to learn more about how certain foods can boost your energy and outlook. Note that if you have been feeling down for a few weeks and can’t shake those sad thoughts, reach out to your doc to make sure it’s not something more serious, like depression.
There is a strong link between the mind and body. “Stress and anxiety can deeply affect your GI tract, immune system, and sleep, which in turn affects all aspects of your wellbeing,” says Brittany Modell, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Brittany Modell Nutrition and Wellness. Studies show that what you eat—and don’t eat—can influence your risk of developing mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
That’s why a nutrient-rich diet is a key component for mental wellbeing. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that diets rich in vegetables, fruit, fish, and whole grains have been linked to better mental outcomes than diets that were high in processed foods, fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer.
When you’re feeling low, these foods contain nutrients shown to impact your mood.
That feeling of calm you get after nibbling this treat isn’t in your head—it’s real! Chocolate has been linked to the neurotransmitter, serotonin, a mood-altering chemical, which might explain why you feel good after eating it. Savor a small amount of good-quality dark chocolate, which is lower in added sugars and high in antioxidants. (Here’s what you need to know about chocolate as an aphrodisiac.)
Take advantage of berry season this summer by adding these fruits to your meals and snacks. “Their mood-boosting nutrients include fiber, healthy carbs, and antioxidants,” says Modell. Carbohydrates fuel the production of the feel-good chemical, serotonin.
“The brain is constantly making new brain cells and connections between cells called synapses,” says Modell. “Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, such as salmon, can help strengthen synapses.” Those fatty acids also play a critical role in reducing inflammation, which can impair brain function. “Although the mechanism is unclear, omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of anxiety symptoms by neutralizing the high concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines often seen with depression and anxiety,” says Modell. If you’re not a fan of fish, you can get omega-3s in your diet from flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and canola oil.
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