The arctic wintery weather is upon us, and with cold weather comes less sunlight. These factors can lead to seasonal depression and cause you to feel a bit down in the dumps. Even without the winter weather blues getting us down, it’s easy to feel sad or upset about things within our daily lives that might be affecting us negatively. Despite these factors, you can stay happy with a few key foods to help boost your mood and keep your smile on.
According to Harvard associate professor of cardiovascular medicine, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, “Diet has tremendous effects on our short-and long-term health, especially when it comes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.” It is important to eat a balanced diet rather than focus on one specific element. It is important to stay even keeled throughout the day with foods that keep you feeling great. Avoid highly processed foods and those that have high sugar content. If you start putting the following foods in your grocery cart more often, you can lead a healthier and happier lifestyle!
Important for energy production, legumes are packed with magnesium. Boosting your energy can increase happiness and mood. If you are very active during workouts, legumes can replace the magnesium that is lost through sweat.
Salads can be a great way to start eating healthier and get creative with food. Using spinach, swiss chard, or kale in your salad can provide vitamins A and C, as well iron. They also contain lots of folate, a B vitamin, which is necessary for the production of the mood hormones norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.
The key to good mood is a healthy brain. In order to keep a healthy brain, you should eat foods that are best for it which include salmon and other fish or seafood such as mussels. These foods also have a lot of vitamins and minerals packed inside that act as a great bonus for our bodies. Vitamin D3, B-complex vitamins and iodine are just a few of the plentiful nutrients inside fish that help keep you healthy and happy throughout the day.
The color within the blue potato is packed with nutrients that can help sharpen short-term memory as well as reduce inflammation that can affect mood. The blue color is thanks to the powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, which are known to have neuro-protective benefits. Their skins also contain iodine, which is necessary for thyroid hormone production.
Boasting more calcium than regular yogurt, the Greek variety can regulate your calcium levels and help to improve your mood and health. According to Dr. Ramsey, author of The Happiness Diet, disturbances in calcium levels can “produce anxiety, depression, irritability, impaired memory, and slow thinking.” Eating pasteurized yogurt can boost your healthy fat intake. It also contains higher levels of CLA, which can reduce stress on the brain. Adding Greek yogurt as a quick snack or in a breakfast smoothie could just be the answer to eliminating stress from your day! Remember, also, that high quality yogurt contains probiotics, which have been shown to help depression.
Eating less processed foods and carbohydrates is one way to eliminate the potential for energy crashes throughout the day. Quinoa is a great substitute to rice or bread, and is less likely to cause your blood sugar to spike. The complex carbohydrate found in Quinoa gives a more sustained energy supply. It also contains all nine amino acids that your body cannot make itself. These amino acids are key in building muscle, which in turn can increase energy reserves and endurance.
Commonly referred to as nature’s candy, tomatoes are packed with important nutrients within every inch (including their skin). Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, is important in reducing inflammation which contributes to depression. These antioxidants can also help reduce allergies, and help those suffering from allergies to breath easier. Cherry tomatoes are especially high in lycopene because you eat more of their skin, which contains the most amount of lycopene.
As always, everything in moderation is key, but studies show that dark chocolate is a great mood boosting food, which can even reduce stress! According to a study done at Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, eating 1.4 oz of dark chocolate every day for two weeks can reduce stress hormones (specifically cortisol) in those people who were highly stressed.
Overall, the most important key to changing your mood through the right foods is to remember to eat a balanced diet. By keeping your brain happy with important nutrients and vitamins (including healthy fats), it protects your brain against stress, depression, and extreme highs and lows that happen with deficiencies. These changes do not happen overnight or with crash diets, but with sustained changes to a diet including these foods, coupled with exercise. This combination can boost your mood, increase your energy, and lead you down the path to a healthier and happier life.