Can food improve your mood? According to research, a variety of foods actually can provide an increase in energy while chasing away the blues.
Foods that provide vitamins, minerals and fatty acids are not simply healthy, said Maya Dangerfield with Greatis.com, but can increase happiness while reducing depression.
“What we eat can have a huge impact on our mood and emotional health,” said Lisa Guy, nutrition expert with Body and Soul online. “Regularly consuming heavily processed foods that are high in sugars and saturated fats and low in nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc and magnesium, can have a negative impact on your emotional health.
“Eating certain ‘feel-good’ foods, however, as part of a well-balanced, wholesome diet, helps support healthy nerve and brain function as well as promoting the production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters.”
Here are four foods that just might help get rid of those winter blues:
Full of vitamins A, B and C, spinach provides iron and protein – nutrients that boost energy levels.
Spinach also is a good source of magnesium, which is significant because low levels of magnesium in the body make people feel tired, irritable and even foggy, according to Women’s Health Magazine.
Spinach also contains folate, which helps create new cells and increases serotonin levels. Spinach even may boost weight loss by “reducing cravings for sweets and salty junk food.”
Oily fish, such as trout and sardines, contains omega-3 essential fatty acids, which Guy said are “crucial” for brain and nerve function. Omega-3 fats also help reduce depression by potentially increasing serotonin in the body.
Eat fish such as mackerel, tuna, wild salmon and bluefish for good sources of fatty acids. Guy said flaxseed oil also contains omega-3 fats. Chia seeds, Chinese broccoli and spinach contain omega-3 fats as well.
“While all omega-3s are healthy, you get the most benefit from EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), found in salmon, tuna and other fatty fish,” said Nancy Rones from Health.com.
Berries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which are effective in reducing stress levels.
Papaya and oranges are high in folic acid as well as vitamin B6. Health expert Corrie Pikul said that people with depression have been found to be deficient in both folic acid and vitamin B6.
Bananas also provide amino acids, which help produce tryptophan and, consequently, serotonin. In addition, fruits such as pineapple, blueberries and avocado provide amino acids, as well as vitamin B and folate.
“Blueberries are particularly important because they are also high in antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation and the risk of certain diseases, including cancer,” according to Body and Soul.
Eating chocolate – particularly dark chocolate – can reduce stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines. Dark chocolate also encourages the production of serotonin and relaxes blood vessels.
“Serotonin is an essential neurotransmitter for emotional stability, calmness, good sleep and general state of wellbeing,” Guy said.
For some people, chocolate can reduce depression symptoms as well. A study in 2007 showed that more than half of people struggling with depression felt improvement in their symptoms after eating a piece of dark chocolate, according to Body and Soul. But it only works for certain personality types.
What healthy foods do you eat to boost your mood and even chase away the blues? Share your tips in the section below: