What you choose to eat and drink enters your body and affects your whole being. Sugary foods contribute to the development of cellulite; a cup of coffee can kickstart your day; chocolate can instantly make you happy. The food we eat affects us physically. But does it also affect your mood and mental health?

Certain foods contain nutrients or chemicals that affect how the brain functions, and as a result, it does affect your mood. Some foods can help with your focus, ease a depressive mood, and increase your energy levels, while other foods can also make you feel more sad or irritable. 

If you feel gloomy or in a foul mood, it won’t hurt to eat the right foods to be in a good mood, right? Read further to know what food or diet can help you improve your mood. 

How Can Food Affect Your Mood?

You may wonder how the food that goes in your gut can affect your mood—fun fact: 90% of the serotonin receptors are found in the stomach. The serotonin receptors regulate the release of the hormone serotonin and certain neurotransmitters like dopamine and acetylcholine, which significantly affect a person’s mood.

Serotonin is a chemical in the brain responsible for regulating happiness, anxiety, and mood. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, mood swings, and anxiety disorders. In simple terms, what goes in the stomach, communicates with the brain. 

The Connection Of Diet And Depression

Studies show that maintaining a healthy gut by sticking to a balanced diet lowers the risk of developing depression. Mediterranean diet is proven to fight against depression. Also, some foods contain nutrients that can help prevent and treat mild depression. Foods like mussels, oysters, salmon, spinach, watercress, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, and strawberries can help prevent depression. 

However, always remember that eating the right foods is only part of the solution in preventing or treating depression. There are other ways like exercising, having the right coping mechanism, receiving support from your loved ones, and the good old-fashioned therapy as well. 

Suggested Foods And Diet For A Better Mood

Following a strict and healthy diet may be hard for some. In fact, it may be costly too. This is better compared to eating crappy foods which can affect your health in the long term. But remember, we only got one body, and our body is our temple. Remember the famous line of Joey in friends, “A moment in the lips, forever on the hips”. 

Try to adjust your diet and your whole family to be in great physical health and be in a better mental state. If you or a loved one is experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression, try these foods and diet to promote a better mood. 

Do Not Avoid Carbs, Just Eat Smart

The connection between carbs and improved mood is all about the non-essential amino acid called tryptophan. Although foods containing carbohydrates do not contain tryptophan, it causes insulin to be secreted in the body. In turn, insulin supports the transportation of tryptophan to the brain. As more tryptophan enters the brain, serotonin is synthesized in the brain. Serotonin is a mood regulator that makes a person happy and reduces anxiety. 

So eating carbohydrates is actually good for improving one’s mood. If ever you’re worried about gaining weight by eating too many carbs, you can always eat smart carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Don’t avoid carbohydrates, just eat smart or eat less.

Eat Dark, Leafy, Green Vegetables

Dark, leafy, and greeny vegetables can also improve your mood. We’ve been told since we were little how vegetables are good for you, spoiler alert: THIS IS TRUE! Vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli are rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. A few of the beneficial contents of vegetables are potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamin B12. 

Health education classes at school always reiterate how good fruits and vegetables are good for your physical health. Little did we know that green leafy vegetables can also help with having a good mood and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Also, vegetables contain prebiotics that provides good bacteria for a healthy gut, which helps in promoting mental health. 

Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One of the food contents proven to improve a person’s mood and prevent depression is omega-3 fatty acids. Examples of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseed, walnuts, and fish. 

Omega-3 travels fast in the cell membrane of the brain and interacts with mood-regulating molecules. Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory actions that relieve depression and help you be in a good mood. Eating fish and nuts a few times a week is good for both physical and mental health.  

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Have you experienced going to school or work without having breakfast and feeling grumpy throughout the day? Skipping breakfast can cause digestive problems and can negatively impact your mood. Never start the day without eating a hearty breakfast. What comprises a balanced breakfast to kickstart your day and improve your mood? 

Foods like: 

  • Carbohydrates: Rice, protein, fruit juice
  • Whole grains or whole foods: Bagels, waffles, muffins, cereals
  • Lean protein: Lean meat, eggs, nuts
  • Low-fat dairy: Yogurt, cottage cheese, milk
  • Lots of fiber from fruits and vegetables
  • Fermented Foods: Meat, fish, vegetables, dairy, soybeans, legumes, cereals, and fruits

Try Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet has grown popular through the years as it is proven to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The Mediterranean diet is a balanced and healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, cereals, and fish. 

Generally, the foods included in the Mediterranean diet are:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats: From seeds, nuts, and olive oil
  • Moderate amounts of fish, dairy, eggs, and red meat
  • Moderate red wine consumption
When you follow a Mediterranean diet, avoid foods like:
  • Refined grains: White bread, pasta, pizza, or anything that contains white flour
  • Refined oils: Canola, soybean
  • Sugary foods: Desserts, candy, soda
  • Processed meats: Hotdog, ham, salami, sausage
  • Packaged foods: Microwavable meals, biscuits, canned foods

All the foods in a Mediterranean diet contain plenty of nutrients that are linked to help prevent depression. The common denominator in the Mediterranean diet is the nutrient called folate. Studies show that folate deficiency affects mental health and can result in depressive symptoms. 

Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is proven to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a happy hormone that promotes positive feelings like happiness, pleasure, and love. 

Eat foods rich in Vitamin D such as:
  • Oily fish: Sardines, salmon, mackerel, and herring
  • Moderate amounts of red meat
  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods: Cereals, milk products

Studies show that people suffering from anxiety, depression, or seasonal affective disorder tend to have improved emotional and mental health as Vitamin D consumption increases. It is recommended to consume daily at least 600 international units (IU) of Vitamin D from foods. You can also try Vitamin D supplements. 

Eat More Selenium-Rich Foods

Selenium is a mineral found in water, soil, and foods. It plays a crucial role in boosting the immune system and lowers oxidative stress in the body. Research also shows that selenium-rich foods help in stabilizing the mood. In fact, selenium deficiency is linked with developing depression and anxiety. 

Here is a list of selenium-rich foods:
  • Whole Foods or Grain: Pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, cereals
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Seafood: Clams, oysters, crab, sardines, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish
  • Nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes
  • Lean meat: Lean beef, lean pork, skinless chicken, skinless turkey

Dark Chocolates

Chocolates contain rich amounts of mood-boosting compounds. The sugar content of chocolate instantly improves mood and is a quick source of brain fuel. Of course, everybody loves the taste, smell, and texture of chocolate, which instantly promotes a good mood. 

It is better to eat dark chocolates if you’re weight-conscious because it contains less sugar than milk chocolates. Also, dark chocolates lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation, and helps in improving brain function. 

Legumes

Legumes like black beans, chickpeas, lima beans, soybeans, and lentils are rich sources of magnesium. Research shows that magnesium reduces the mania symptoms in bipolar disorder. In addition, legumes contain high contents of Vitamin B, which are mood-boosting nutrients.

Bananas

Bananas, as we all know, are a rich source of potassium. Little did we know, bananas can also turn a frown upside down. Bananas contain natural sugars, prebiotic fiber, and Vitamin B6, which help keep the blood sugar at normal levels and stabilize the mood. Bananas contain high levels of Vitamin B6, which helps synthesize the feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. 

The prebiotics found in bananas is also associated with lowering the risk of mood disorders. We all know that low blood sugar levels may lead to mood swings and irritability. Bananas are a great source of healthy sugar. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, healthy eating is not just good for physical health, but for mental health as well. As they say, healthy foods make a happy person. If you want to boost your happiness and feel good most of the time, follow the recommended diet above. 

However, if it’s not just the sad mood you’re concerned about and think you’re experiencing a mental health problem, nothing beats old good mental health counseling. If you’re having mental health problems, talk to a therapist at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC)

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