Have you ever considered how diet plays a role in your mood? Perhaps when you’re feeling down, sweets cheer you up or salty foods lift your spirits. However, consuming these foods in excess can negatively impact your health.
There are several foods that not only taste great when prepared properly, but will support mental health, mood, and brain health as well.
How Diet Affects Your Mood
You may notice your mood shifts when you’re hungry, but what you eat affects you in more ways than this. Research shows that a healthy diet high in key nutrients, such as magnesium, can help support a sense of calm.
A 2016 study found that magnesium is essential in many of the body’s processes, especially those involved in producing the messengers that travel between the brain and body and control mood. So, getting enough magnesium promotes the creation and maintenance of these messengers which should result in more happy chemicals in the brain.
Gut issues can contribute to low mood, irritability, and nervousness. Although much of the research about the gut-brain connection is new, it has changed how we view the brain and its relationship to diet. A healthy gut microbiome (the home of your friendly gut bacteria) enables your body to create adequate amounts of the right neurotransmitters that directly affect your mood, such as serotonin.
The health of your intestines is largely influenced by the foods you eat, particularly those that are high in fiber. Fiber helps the healthy bacteria in your gut increase in number. It’s important to have more “good bacteria” than “bad bacteria” in your gut for optimal health.
So, what are the best ways to support your mood through nutrition? Some of the key contributors to eating well for a healthy mood are keeping balanced blood sugars, eating healthy fats for hormone balance, and focusing on foods that incorporate magnesium and other vital nutrients.
It’s important to realize that none of these are quick fixes. An overall balanced diet and lifestyle will yield the best long-term results. These foods won’t immediately make you feel better, but over time they certainly can help.
Let’s dive into the best foods for promoting a healthy mind!
7 of the Best, Great-tasting Mood-Boosting Foods
Kefir is fermented milk that’s full of healthy bacteria called probiotics. While it’s often debated among scientists as to the effectiveness of taking probiotics, fermented foods have been understood by many cultures throughout history to have beneficial effects.
Kefir, with its sour taste, creamy mouthfeel, and an ever-increasing variety of flavors available at your local supermarket, is a great option for promoting gut health. It also has protein, B vitamins, and calcium!
Speaking of fermented foods, tempeh is increasing in popularity because it is plant-based and high in protein. Plus, it offers benefits to your gut due to its high fiber content. If that isn’t enough to win you over, it has healthy gut bacteria since it’s fermented. Tempeh is made by fermenting cooked soybeans. It can be prepared in a variety of ways and tends to take on whatever flavorings it’s seasoned with, making it versatile as well.
Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates. Since carbohydrates increase your blood sugar levels, pairing carbs with protein is a great way to prevent a drastic spike in blood sugar. Rapid increases in blood sugar are often followed by rapid decreases, which can lead to irritability.
Keeping your blood sugar stable will likely keep you even-keeled.
Spinach and Kale
Leafy greens make it onto nearly every list of healthy foods. That’s because they offer so many benefits.
Spinach and kale are high in fiber, so they’re great for keeping you regular and supporting healthy digestion, two key components of gut health. Also, they offer vitamins and minerals that can help the gut create neurotransmitters that can help support a healthy mood.
Foods high in healthy fats are key to maintaining healthy blood sugar, which prevents irritability. They also help the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, which are needed for balanced hormones that help our bodies manage stress and stabilize our mood. Avocados are one of the healthiest fats around, and they’re a versatile food, too. They can be added to smoothies, salads, dips, and more. They also have a good amount of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Along with avocados, salmon is high in healthy fats and protein. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep you full longer and keep your blood sugar balanced.
Aiming for 2-3 servings of fatty fish (like salmon) per week is a good rule of thumb for supporting your mood and overall health.
A small and versatile contender on our list, chia seeds offer protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re easy to incorporate into smoothies, yogurt, or healthy baked goods. Another way to work them into your diet is to look for items at the grocery store, like snack bars, that have chia seeds in them. Just keep an eye on the added sugar content, and you’ll have a convenient and healthy snack that supports your mood!
Last, but certainly not least, is chocolate! A 2013 study examined the protective effects compounds in chocolate called flavanols may have on the brain. The researchers wanted to determine if these flavanols had any positive effect on mental performance.
What they concluded was that there was a positive association between chocolate and good mood, but they clarified that this could be because eating sweet foods releases endorphins that make us feel good, rather than chocolate having a unique mood-boosting effect. Interestingly, chocolate was shown to have positive effects on overall brain health.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that dark chocolate with little added sugar is going to be better for you than a chocolate-coated candy bar that’s primarily sugar and has very little cocoa flavanols.
Nutrition plays a major role in every area of life, and mood is no exception. A balanced diet rich in plant-based foods like leafy greens and fermented foods can help encourage a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn aids the body in producing key mood-supporting neurotransmitters.
Keep in mind, no mood-supporting lifestyle would be complete without including regular exercise. It’s recommended that adults get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or local park, or weightlifting at the gym, or a fitness class with a friend, making time for regular physical activity will undoubtedly lift your mood and help relieve stress as well.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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