7 Natural Mood-Boosting Foods
When we are feeling emotionally low, turning to natural mood-boosting foods can make the world of a difference with helping us along the way.
Often when we are feeling down, turning to food is a tempting way to make ourselves feel better. But rather than opting for a sugary treat, nutritionally dense foods will actually work with our bodies to help reduce our emotional lows.
As Hippocrates famously said: “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
Before we begin our list of our mood-boosting foods, it’s important to note that while nutrition can be highly beneficial for our emotional health, our moods can be also influenced by many additional factors such as stress, environment, poor sleep, genetics, mood disorders, and nutritional deficiencies.
Nonetheless, certain foods have been shown to benefit overall brain health and certain types of mood disorders.
Here are seven mood-boosting foods to add to your diet to help improve your emotional well-being.
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is one of our favourite uplifting foods because along with its sweet taste, magnesium and flavonoids are hidden inside which are rich mood-boosting compounds.
Magnesium limits the release of cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone, preventing it from reaching the brain and lowering our emotions. This results in a reduction of anxiety, mood swings, restlessness, memory loss, insomnia, and depression.
Flavonoids are also an effective way to improve our brain health and improve our moods as they work to influence our gut-microbiome. Given the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of flavonoids, researchers have shown that they can provide effective release of depressive symptoms, anxiety; thus improving our moods.
Take this as a sign to enjoy a piece of chocolate guilt free!
We all know that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can help reduce inflammation. As a result, this can help minimise symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Berries in particular are high in antioxidants and phenolic compounds that help to reduce oxidative stress in the body.
In addition, berries are also very high in Vitamin C. In fact, one cup of berries contains 24% of our recommended daily allowance. Vitamin C works to clear the body of excess cortisol that is produced when we are feeling stressed. Less cortisol often leads to reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. On top of this, vitamin C also prevents blood sugar levels from spiking during stressful situations - providing us with a preventative measure for emotional lows.
Blueberries specifically can help regulate and prevent spikes of cortisol levels. They do this by repairing and protecting cells damaged by the stress hormone.
Adding these natural mood-boosting foods to smoothies or enjoying them on their own will help improve the day.
This iron-rich super food is rich in folic acid and magnesium, making it an effective tool to help boost our moods.
Folic acid has been shown to promote good brain health and helps to improve focus and concentration. Folic acid also helps to reduce levels of homocysteine, a compound that has been linked to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
Spinach is also a rich source of magnesium which is a natural muscle-relaxant and important for up to 300 metabolic functions in the body - making it critical in brain function and mood. Research shows that low levels of magnesium can lead to increased risks for depression, so keeping this up is vital for our mental health.
Try adding spinach to omelettes, minestrone soups or as a side to a meat dish to increase your intake.
4. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that we must receive through food because our body cannot produce them on its own.
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are rich in two types of omega-3s — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Studies have shown that these fatty acids help lower levels of depression.
Research has also shown that omega-3’s shift brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Lower levels of these chemicals in our body are directly linked with depression and a variety of other mood disorders.
Add 2-3 servings of fatty fish to your menu each week to help balance and strengthen your emotional wellbeing.
5. Nuts & seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with proteins, health fats and fibre.
This food group also contains tryptophan which is an amino acid responsible for producing serotonin - which plays a key role in our mood function. To increase your intake of this amino acid, almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are rich sources.
Certain nuts and seeds are good sources of zinc and selenium. Good examples are almonds, brazil nuts and pine nuts. These nutrients are important for brain function. Some research suggests there is a link between low levels of these minerals and depression.
A study conducted over 10 years found that people who consumed a moderate amount of nuts had a 23% lower risk of depression
6. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut, have probiotics that work to improve gut health and mood.
During the fermentation process, bacteria grows and converts sugars into alcohols and acids, thus creating probiotics. These microorganisms help support the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which contributed to an increase in serotonin production.
Studies have shown that 90% of your body’s serotonin is in fact made in your gut microbiome, or a collection of healthy gut bacteria.
Some gut bacterias also promote the production of the brain chemical GABA, which is vital as low levels of GABA have been linked to higher levels of anxiety and stress.
7. Green Tea
Sipping on a green tea at the end of the day could be the perfect way to help boost your mood.
Green tea is traditionally known to induce mental clarity, cognitive function, physical activation and relaxation.
Green tea contains a naturally-occuring compound called L-theanine which has a range of therapeutic benefits. This includes improving sleep quality and increasing mental focus. Research suggests that the L-theanine in green tea may promote a deeper sense of relaxation by reducing one’s resting heart rate.
This tea also contains a small amount of caffeine which can be beneficial to improving brain function. Research has consistently shown that caffeine has helped improve mood, vigilance, reaction time, and memory.
Studies have shown that a combination of both caffeine and L-theanine can be particularly powerful in improving brain function.