Feeling blue, depressed, unhappy, and generally down in the dumps? Your diet might be to blame. Eating certain foods can improve your mental health. Studies show that the right nutrients can improve your mood, comfort angst, and even fight melancholy.
When you are feeling apprehensive, it can be tempting to turn to sweet empty calories. But that can have harmful consequences for your health. Instead, turn to good, healthy food and eat mindfully, with the full awareness that what you are fuelling your body with is right for you. Here is a quick list of some of the best foods that not only lift your spirits but also improve overall brain health.
Mood-Boosting Snacks For Mental Health
Here’s a truth that many of us have suspected all along, and science has now confirmed it for us: chocolate makes you happy!
Experts at have discovered that eating about 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate can keep the blues at bay every day. It reduces the stress hormones (cortisol) in the body, helping us deal with anxiety and apprehension and be more active instead.
This effect could be attributed to the high levels of antioxidants in dark chocolate.
So, it’s okay to indulge (just a little)
Other research on chocolate also shows that it can improve cognition skills. It is a rich source of magnesium, iron, and other trace minerals that help us relax and feel good.
Are you a worrywart? Fret not because a serving of this seafood a day will keep your worries away.
Salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and other fatty fish are great at lowering anxiety and nervousness. Researchers say that these foods are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids are brain food with anti-inflammatory properties, responsible for boosting mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in our bodies.
The trouble is that while we need this acid, our bodies can’t produce them. That’s why it is essential to have these kinds of seafood as a part of our regular diets. A study found that medical students, who took omega-3 supplements before each exam were at least 20% less anxious and stressed out than before.
Aside from omega-3 acids, salmon is also a good source of vitamins B12 and D. Depressed patients are proven to have low levels of both.
Don’t skip out on that daily cup of tea, no matter how busy you are. That’s because it can help calm your senses, soothe your anxiety and revitalise a dark mood.
According to a Japanese study, drinking two or three cups of green tea a day showed considerable improvement in the moods of the elderly subjects.
The reason is simple. Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine that’s very effective at fighting anxiety. Some types of green tea also have small amounts of caffeine, so if you need a pick-me-up in the middle of the day, opt for that one instead of coffee or milk tea. This way, you can get a nice swift kick without feeling the jitters usually associated with hot caffeinated drinks.
We’ve already explored how useful antioxidants are for the mood. But if you aren’t a big fan of chocolates, it might be a good idea to get your fix from blueberries. It might be a small fruit, but it’s big on a type of antioxidants called flavonoids that helps control moody outbursts, improve memory and inhibit the aging of the brain.
Some experts go so far as to say that the anti-inflammatory properties of these antioxidants have proven effective at treating PTSD and other mental health issues.
How that happens isn’t entirely clear yet. Still, a diet rich in blueberries can also help manage inflammation that’s often associated with mood disorders and oxidative stress. The lovely purple-blue color of blueberries is because of a pigment called anthocyanins that’s also effective at lowering the risk of depression and related symptoms.
When blueberries are in season, eat your heart out and also freeze some for the rest of the year so you can play your part in reducing food waste.
It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain some zinc as it can help you stay cool or calm. And oysters are the powerful source of Zinc.
Sure, they also have quite the reputation as aphrodisiacs, but their mood-boosting rewards go much further than the bedroom. Zinc also enhances sleep quality, so you can wake up more refreshed and feel strong enough to take on the day.
The way you eat oysters is an instant mood booster in itself. This seafood is meant to be savored, so instead of swallowing it whole, bite into the meat to savor this unique dish’s full flavor profile.
But if you aren’t ready to commit to this exceptional food, get your Zinc from beef, liver, cashews, and eggs.
Spinach & Other Leafy Greens
Many of us don’t get enough magnesium in our diets, even though this mineral is one of the best gifts for dementia patients and those suffering from stress and anxiety.
Dark leafy veggies like Swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion, collards, kale, and spinach are delicious and can be cooked in several ways and loaded with feel-good magnesium. It may be a good idea to have a serving of these every day, especially when you are feeling particularly down.
Add to that, these greens are chockful of other nutrients as well. We are talking about fiber, B vitamins, and iron. These help regulate blood sugar, enhance brain function, and help you feel more energetic and positive.
Other foods that fulfil the same purpose include beans, avocados, almonds and lentils.
The Bottom Line
It’s completely normal to crave calorie-rich, high-sugar foods like ice-cream or cookies when you feel incredibly stressed out. But while these foods can temporarily lift your spirits, they don’t offer a permanent solution to the blues.
So don’t follow the sugar rush. As an alternative, take the time to plan your meals and be careful about what you put in your body. Aim for wholesome, healthy meals that not only make you feel good at the moment but also enhance your overall health for the long-term.
Words by: Ashley Rosa, freelance writer and blogger. As writing is her passion Ashley loves to share articles related to health and technology. She is crazy about chocolate. You can find her at twitter: @ashrosa2 Photography by Libby Penner.