When you’re singing the blues, certain foods just seem to make you feel better, and researchers agree. Nature’s comfort foods contain compounds that can help stabilize your mood, improve mental function, fight stress and anxiety, and even ease depression. Foods that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids contain naturally occurring molecules that closely resemble those found in certain prescription mood-stabilizers, according to researchers at the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Here are a few mood-boosting foods to help you ward off the grumpies:
A 2012 study in the Journal of Proteome Research found that consuming just one ounce of raw, unpeeled nuts – such as almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts – every day increased levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates feelings of happiness and well-being. Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseed and chia seed, are also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that’s linked to improved mood.
Speaking of omega-3, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, trout, barramundi, arctic char, mackerel and tuna provide a lot of the good stuff. Studies indicate that people who consume lots of fatty fish tend to experience less depression. As an added bonus, omega-3 fatty acids help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, so go ahead and order that salmon sashimi.
Fruits and Veggies
Along with their bright colors and pleasing fragrances, many fruits have mood-boosting qualities. Orange fruits, such as papaya, tangerines and oranges, contain high amounts of folate and vitamin B6. Studies have found that depressed individuals tend to not consume enough of these nutrients. Berries are also a rich source of folate, as well as anti-oxidants. Improve your mood by consuming lots of leafy greens. Kale, spinach, collard greens and dark lettuce varieties all contain high concentrations of folate, as do green beans.
It’s not just wishful thinking: Chocolate really can boost your mood. This luscious substance is rich in theobromine and phenylethyamine, compounds that have been shown to improve mood. Studies suggest that chocolate intake may increase the production of serotonin or dopamine in the brain, another neurotransmitter related to mood. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in people suffering from anxiety. No matter how it works, it tastes great.
Incorporating these foods into your diet can help fend off gloomy feelings before they start, too. So the next time you’ve got a case of the Mondays, reach for handful of nuts, berries or dark chocolate and reap the mood-boosting and tasty benefits.