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If you’re ever feeling pretty blah as you go about your day, you may want to consider if your diet could be the culprit. A lack of certain nutrients in the diet has been associated with depression, so it is important to eat an overall healthy diet on a daily basis. If we eat better foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish, we short circuit the junk food cravings and have higher energy levels and sharper mental focus, says Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian who is also the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. Eating certain foods (outlined below) may not put us in an instantly great mood, but can give you a mood boost!
Walnuts and Fatty Fish
When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, no food source is better than fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, bluefish, and salmon. These fats have specific brain boosting properties to fight depression, and as an added bonus they improve circulation and reduce inflammation and your overall risk of heart disease, says Ficek. If you are vegetarian or vegan, reach for the walnuts because they are the richest plant based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
A number of studies have found an association between low vitamin D levels and mood disorders including depression, PMS and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), says Rise coach, Lori Rosenthal, MS, RD, CDN. Egg yolk is a good source of vitamin D, along with fatty fish and fortified cereals. Tip: Limit yourself to 1 egg yolk per day.
High fiber carbohydrates found in whole grains can leave you feeling good and doing your body good at the same time. Whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta are all good choices since they assist the body with release of serotonin, the feel good hormone, says Ficek.
Adequate hydration is essential for our body to run smoothly. When we are dehydrated, our bodies have to work harder, leaving us dragging, says Rosenthal. Getting enough fluids will help boost your mood and energy levels. Tip: Sugary drinks, including juice, soda, and sports drinks not only can lead to a energy crash, but also contribute to diabetes and obesity. Try to hydrate sugar-free.
Green tea is rich in the amino acid, theanine. This amino acid naturally found in tea leaves provides an anti-stress relaxation benefit to drinkers. Plus, green tea gives a boost of relaxed alertness rather than the boost of tension or anxiety that coffee drinkers report, says Ficek.
In fact, a new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that tea consumption may be linked to improved mood, mental alertness and problem solving! Think of that the next time you are cramming for that big final exam.
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If you’re feeling down, this bold spice found in many Indian and Asian curry dishes can help boost your mood. It’s loaded with anti-inflammatory properties and contains the active compounds turmerones and curcuminods, which also provide a wide variety of health benefits, says Ficek.
A lot of us turn to chocolate when we’re having a bad day, and it may be instinctual! Eating dark chocolate has been shown to reduce stress hormones, including cortisol, according to this study done at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland. This could be due to the antioxidants in chocolate, but it’s delicious and makes us feel better, so we’re happy it’s good for us, too.
Leafy green vegetables, including spinach, are packed with health promoting nutrients including folic acid, which has been found to positively affect mood, says Rosenthal. Beans, asparagus and oranges are also good sources of folic acid.