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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

10 Mood Boosting Foods to Help You Feel Good Instantly

10 Mood Boosting Foods to Help You Feel Good Instantly

If only we could eat our way to happiness, right? While strictly speaking that might not be possible, a growing body of research indicates that our dietary choices can, in fact, significantly affect how we feel both short- and long-term.

Studies on how food and supplements interact with our neurochemistry fall under the umbrella of a new and emerging scientific specialty: nutritional psychiatry. This article will discuss some of the surprising facts that nutritional psychiatry has uncovered, and take a look at 10 mood-boosting foods you can corporate into your daily diet.

But first, what is nutritional psychiatry?

Many mental health problems are closely associated with deficiencies of essential vitamins and nutrients.[1]

Nutritional psychiatry (also known as nutri-pyschiatry) is a growing field that investigates how foods and supplements can be used to treat a range of psychological symptoms, including those typically associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Although the discipline is still in its infancy, it has vast potential and represents hope for millions who struggle with mental health issues. If a simple dietary change could be used to treat or prevent symptoms of depression or anxiety, for instance, it could mean that fewer people would need to resort to potentially dangerous and addictive psychotropic medications.

In fact, this has already been done in multiple studies. A meta-analysis of 22 separate scientific papers investigated the association between a Mediterranean diet and risk of depression. The conclusion of the analysis was that high adherence to the diet appeared to have a preventative effect on the disease, regardless of other factors.[2]

So how can you lower your risk of depression and naturally elevate your mood at the same time? The answer might just lie in a refined diet — one rich in so-called “brain foods” that contain essential nutrients for a healthy mind. Here are ten majorly mood-boosting foods that fall into that category:

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1. Oats

The benefit oats have on mood all comes down to something called the glycemic index, which is a measurement of how quickly a food causes an increase in blood glucose levels.

Mood is often directly related to blood sugar; for example, the very high glycemic index of sugary foods prompts a drastic jump in your blood sugar — a quick “rush” — before leaving you feeling tired and irritable.[3]

The glycemic index of oats, on the other hand, is very low, meaning that when you eat them, your blood sugar rises very slowly and predictably during digestion. This helps you maintain a stable mood.

2. Bananas

Tryptophan, vitamin A, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and carbohydrates: these are nine important nutrients you get from bananas, and they all work together to boost your mood.

Tryptophan, aided by the carbs in bananas, gets quickly absorbed by the digestive tract, and vitamin B6 converts tryptophan into serotonin, the “happiness hormone.”

Lots of tryptophan in the diet (you’ll find a good bit more on this list) is always a good idea. Pharmaceutical forms of tryptophan are even occasionally used to treat symptoms of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.[4] Oatmeal with banana slices for breakfast, anyone?

3. Oily Fish

About 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat cells, a significant portion of which are omega-3 fatty acids. It makes sense, then, that a deficiency in those acids would lead to some negative mental side effects.

Sure enough, it has been proven that people low in omega-3 fatty acids are more susceptible to depression and low moods, while adding omega-3s to the diet can significantly improve the related symptoms.[5]

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Luckily, it’s not difficult to get plenty of omega-3s, even without taking a supplement. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines all contain high levels of these acids, and getting enough of them can mean the difference between brain cells that are “stiff” or “flexible”– the latter allowing your mind to more effectively communicate via its neurotransmitters.[6][7]

4. Lentils

Know what goes great with some salmon for lunch? A delicious bowl full of lentils — or lentil soup, or lentil casserole.

Like oats, lentils have a low glycemic index, and like bananas, they help the brain convert tryptophan to serotonin.

Additionally, lentils serve up a heavy dose of folate — a nutrient whose deficiency has been linked to depression. Plus, lentils are high in iron, which the body needs to maintain energy levels.[8]

5. Greens

Remember how B6 vitamins help the brain convert tryptophan into serotonin? B6 deficiency has been linked to symptoms of depression, which in turn is thought to be majorly connected to serotonin uptake.

Greens, as it turns out, are an excellent source of B vitamins. Fortunately, since not everyone goes for turnips, there are plenty of delicious varieties of greens, from spinach and kale to broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Raw, steamed, sauteed, or baked, all forms of leafy and cruciferous greens make a great addition to your diet.

6. Poultry

Tryptophan has been mentioned several times in this list, but here it comes again. It is, after all, the precursor to serotonin, which is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain — especially when it comes to mood.

In addition to serotonin, tryptophan aids the brain in producing melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone; and of course, healthy sleep is a vital ingredient for a healthy mood.

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Chicken, turkey, and other lean poultry or fowl is not just an excellent source of tryptophan, but also tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that’s crucial in the production of adrenaline, and according to research, low adrenaline levels are often associated with low moods in general.[9]

7. Oysters

Speaking of tyrosine, another great place to find it is in oysters. It’s not just tyrosine that gets oysters onto this list, though — they’re actually somewhat of a mental health super-booster.

Oysters contain high levels of zinc, which is an essential ingredient for energy production, and another nutrient whose deficiency is associated with depression.[10]

Oysters are also loaded with B and D vitamins, as well as copper, selenium, protein, and healthy fats — all things your brain needs to feel good and work as intended.[11]

8. Brazil Nuts

If “Brazil nuts” seems oddly specific (why not just “nuts?”), there’s actually a reason. Brazil nuts are unique among their food group as an excellent source of a mineral called selenium. In fact, Brazil nuts are one of the best ways to naturally boost your selenium levels.

Why is that so important for your mood? Because selenium deficiency is serious business, associated with increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other chronic issues like irritability, brain fog, and fatigue. According to at least one study, a single selenium-laden Brazil nut per day might be enough to positively impact your brain and your mood.[12]

9. Dark Chocolate

If you’re a picky eater who doesn’t like greens, oysters, oats, sardines, or lentils, well, not to worry — there’s still something for you on this list. In between meals or as a dessert, you can justify nibbling on some dark chocolate, thanks to its many health benefits, including those on mood.

Just one small square of extra dark chocolate is typically enough to prompt the brain into releasing extra endorphins and serotonin. When incorporated as a regular part of the diet, it can even decrease stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.[13]

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10. Water

Water might deserve to be at the top of this list, but since it’s debatable whether or not it qualifies as a food, it’s way down here instead. However, the critical importance of water on both physical and mental health is something that’s not debatable.

Even mild dehydration affects your brain’s uptake of important neurotransmitters, leaving you tired, irritable, and unable to focus. [14]

Most experts recommend drinking between one and two liters of water every day. For some people, the thought of that much water isn’t pleasant. In that case, just remember that all fluids count toward that goal, and even if you think water isn’t your favorite thing to drink, your body is really begging for it.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, there may be reasons for low moods that simply can’t be properly addressed with a “quick fix.” That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, exercise routine, and sleep cycle — as well as consult with a physician anytime you notice a significant change in how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis.

In other cases, however, our negative feelings may just be the result of putting junk into our bodies — the equivalent of how your car would react if you tried pouring corn syrup into the fuel tank.

The fact is, focusing on a dietary upgrade could make all the difference in terms of mood. And hey, it’s worth a try just to make chocolate a part of your daily routine, right?

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. David Minkoff

Health Expert | CEO BodyHealth | Co-Owner and Medical Director at Lifeworks Wellness Center | Author

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

More Health Tips

Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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