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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 January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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