Do you sometimes feel sad or depressed and don’t know why? Some days you are a person full of energy and happiness, and other days you feel exhausted and do not know what the explanation for this change is? It is likely possible that it has to do with your diet. We know that certain eating habits can make us feel grumpy, while certain foods can make us feel in a good mood. That relationship between food and our emotion is undeniable. (1) That’s why we have come up with scientifically proven mood-boosting foods to give you the right boost you need.
It is a fact that food provides us with the energy we need to carry out our daily activities. All our reflex actions like breathing, winking or even the beating of our hearts need energy. If brain cells or muscles work a lot during the day, energy consumption is significantly higher. For this reason, a regular intake of food is essential to remain vital and full of energy.
On the other hand, hormones also influence how we feel. Some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, provide relaxation and well-being. Others, like cortisol, or the stress hormone, trigger feelings of tension and nervousness. (2)
Both reactions of our body are necessary for different situations. These hormones that influence our feelings are, in turn, influenced by the kind of food we take at any given moment in time. Whether for sadness, concentration, or anxiety, there are many scientifically proven mood-boosting foods suitable for different circumstances. We shall now highlight some of the most common ones and the impact these foods have on our emotions.
11 Scientifically Proven Mood-Boosting Foods
1. Fatty fish for a good mood
Fatty fish – like mackerel, salmon, or tuna – is great for the brain because it is rich in very important Omega 3 fatty acids. These are vital for the brain to support neurotransmitters’ production that governs emotion, memory, and concentration (3)
According to some research, these fats also help reduce inflammation, which may be present to a greater extent in some people with depression. Mackerel is the best option, according to specialists, because it also contains less mercury than other oily fish, which can benefit the brain in the long term.
2. Egg yolks for concentration
Many people like to discard egg yolks with the concern that they contain too much fat. But they are actually great for the brain. In particular, they contain choline, a nutrient that helps form a protective coating on some of the nerves, helping the brain communicate more quickly.
It also helps build the neurotransmitter responsible for concentration and memory, acetylcholine. However, according to the experts, the egg yolk should not be overcooked. It is advisable to consume it raw. (4)
3. Sweet potato to relieve anxiety
Sweet potatoes are not only tasty and great for the skin, but they also provide nutrients of magnesium and vitamin B6. These components have a powerful “calming” effect.
For this reason, some specialists advise consuming them in states of stress, tension, or anxiety. In particular, Vitamin B6 is required to produce γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, which can often be deficient in those suffering from anxiety. Potatoes are, therefore, sacrosanct for every list of mood-boosting foods.(5)
4. Mushrooms against sadness
Exposure to the sun produces, in most people, a better attitude thanks to the fact that light catalyzes the production of vitamin D. This vitamin is crucial in the protection of the mood, as well as in the hormonal balance and in the construction of a better immunity.
Although nothing replaces the sun, mushrooms, especially shiitake varieties, contain vitamin D, so they should be used with meals, especially in the winter months.
Like humans, mushrooms contain more vitamins if exposed to UV light, so it is a good idea to leave them where they can receive the sun’s rays for a couple of hours before cooking to maximize their effect. (6)
5. Sugar-free plain yogurt for the extreme worry
Science is getting closer and closer to unraveling the links between the digestive system and the brain, so much so that the stomach has even been called the “second brain.” It’s no wonder that you feel sick to your stomach in a stressful situation.
Good bacteria are key to healthy digestion, so eating more yogurt can reduce anxiety and improve mood. However, it would be best to opt for a natural option, with no added sugars. (7)
6. Sleeping cherries and goji berries
The human sleep hormone is known as melatonin, and it is made from a compound called tryptophan. There are some foods that, due to their high tryptophan content, really help in the production of melatonin, such as cherries, avocados, oats, bananas, and goji berries. To increase the effect, it is advisable to combine these foods together.
7. Green leafy vegetables for a premenstrual disorder
Green leafy vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, and chard) are packed with all sorts of goodies for your mood because they contain folate and magnesium. The latter relaxes the muscles, supports the nervous system, and nourishes the most important adrenal glands that help relieve anxiety.
On the other hand, their folic acid is necessary to balance hormones, and it also helps with the production of serotonin and dopamine, resulting in fewer pre-period symptoms. On the other hand, greens also contain B vitamins, which are needed throughout the brain to boost mood.
Green leafy vegetables provide countless vitamins and minerals necessary for the body. The daily consumption of portions of vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cabbages, or spinach offers nutrients such as magnesium and zinc that help relaxation, decrease anxiety, and help you feel much better. In addition to ensuring the correct functioning of the immune system, Vitamin C is useful in the fight against the effects of stress and favors the feeling of well-being, fruits rich in this vitamin such as citrus fruits, kiwi, orange, strawberries, act as powerful mood stabilizers. (8)
8. Milk and its derivatives
Another common scientifically proven mood-boosting foods are milk and its derivatives. Dairy products are a great source of vitamins A and B and minerals, most notably calcium and phosphorus. They are also rich in high-quality protein, and their amino acids help improve mood and memory. Some studies also claim that milk is relaxing because it contains tryptophan, which, as I have already discussed, increases serotonin levels, which is related to a positive mood. (9)
Oatmeal is a protein-rich cereal containing many antioxidants and vitamins. Thanks to this, it has many benefits for both physical and emotional health. The latter provides vitality; that is, it combats fatigue and low energy levels. In this sense, oat is also a mood-boosting food. (10)
Strawberries are a delicious fruit that is ideal when taken with cream. Besides being an aphrodisiac food, it also seems to be ideal for improving one’s emotional state. Why? It is rich in vitamin C, which has proven to be an excellent protector of endorphins, hormones related to pleasure, euphoria, and sexuality. Also, the potassium they contain seems to be vital in regulating the nervous system. (11)
Few foods are more delicious than chocolate. Of course, only its versions with high cocoa content are healthy. Chocolate releases dopamine and, therefore, other neurochemicals related to pleasure such as endorphins, serotonin, and phenylethylamine. Therefore, it is good for improving mood, and according to some studies, it helps to relax.(12) However, its consumption should be moderate.
We believe you are now perfectly aware of how you can boost every mood with the right foods, from egg yolks for concentration to sweet potatoes for anxiety relief. However, it would be best if you took note that all these effects are short-term. In other words, your mood can improve with a meal, but if you really want to take advantage of these potential properties of food, researchers recommend eating a varied diet. Although it must be emphasized that there is no particular food to cure depression, a healthy diet can be an important part of a general treatment plan that boosts our physical and mental state.