Feeling down? Always irritable? Maybe there’s a cause for your black moods that you hadn’t suspected… what you’re eating and drinking, as in case you weren’t aware it’s possible for foods to improve mood.
What you eat can impact your mood, helping you to feel better, both immediately, and over the long haul. Making healthy food choices not only helps avoid those highs and lows of blood sugar, but putting good foods in keeps your gastrointestinal tract working smoothly. This alone will have you feeling better, sleeping better too, and that’s bound to improve your mood. Not to mention your health.
A heart healthy eating plan that includes plenty of fiber and is low in saturated fats is a smart starting point.
To have yourself feeling better, here are six suggestions to add to your diet
1. Eat foods rich in folate (also known as folic acid) and vitamin B12… chili made with lean beef and kidney beans… a chicken salad using the skinless breast of chicken along with some romaine lettuce… broiled salmon alongside a serving of crunchy, delicious broccoli… all great tasting and good for you too. What’s more, these two nutrients seem to help prevent central nervous system disorders, mood disorders as well as dementias. Higher intakes of folate rich foods have also been linked to a lower incidence of depressive symptoms. The effect appears across cultures and most recently was confirmed in Japanese men.
2. Eat lots (and lots) of fruits and vegetables, as they’re loaded with important nutrients and antioxidants that directly impact on your health. In one piece of research, eating just 2 more servings of either fruits or veggies was linked to an 11% increased chance of good health. Those who ate more fruits and veggies also reported feeling better about the state of their health too.
3. Eat a selenium rich food daily. The mineral selenium becomes an antioxidant once inside the body. Research has shown that oxidative stress on the brain is linked with mild to moderate cases of depression in more mature people. And having antioxidants around could prove helpful. A recent study examined depression scores of older subjects who took selenium (200 micrograms) or a placebo in a supplement form, with those who took the selenium having significant drops in their depressive symptoms, though more studies are needed to see if they apply beyond the elderly population. The RDA for selenium is 55 micrograms per day, so try and get at least that from natural sources if you can. Whole grains are a good option… things like oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain bread give you 70 micrograms. Other great sources are beans, legumes, lean meats (beef or pork, skinless turkey or chicken), low fat dairy, nuts (especially Brazil nuts) and seeds and seafood like oysters, clams, sardines, crab and fish.
4. Have fish a few times a week, as more than one recent study has suggested that there’s a lower risk of symptoms of depression for both men and women if you consume large quantities of fish… especially fatty fish that are loaded with omega-3’s. Omega-3 fatty acids have positive impacts on mood swings like in postpartum depression. The fish you’ll want to try and include in your diet are rainbow trout, salmon and tuna.
5. Get enough vitamin D by getting some sun, allowing your body to naturally synthesize and regulate this important nutrient. Four new studies have shown a connection between low vitamin d serum levels and increased incidence of four different mood disorders. You’ll want to try for between 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) per day. That’s a lot more than the recommendation of 600 IUs a day for anyone up to age 70, 800 IU for those over 70. Vitamin D isn’t found naturally in many foods (we’re supposed to get it from the sun), but you can find it in foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel and tuna), beef liver, cheese and egg yolks, and fortified products like breads, juices, milk and breakfast cereals.
6. Pamper yourself with a bit of chocolate – meaning only a small amount, a single ounce daily, and it must be dark chocolate. It appears that this type of chocolate impacts the levels of endorphins (feel good chemicals) in the brain as well as an anti clogging effect on the blood vessels that’s oh so good for the heart. In one study, those who ate a small amount of chocolate daily had lower blood pressure and a lower incidence of heart disease, not to mention a boosted feeling of well being.
Just as there are foods that can improve mood, there are those that only make things worse. Eating a high fat, high GI diet, as too many of us are doing, can have you dealing with digestive upsets and fatigue. Here are the three worst offenders in terms of mood…
1. Saturated fat, the well known bad guy of the nutrient world, are thought to encourage heart disease and even some forms of cancer, and may well contribute to depression.
2. Enjoy alcohol in moderation, if at all. We know alcohol is a depressant to the brain and impacts all nerve cells, so while you might feel great after that first drink, the feeling quickly fades and depending on how much alcohol you end up drinking you can go from feeling great to over the top emotions and a lack of coordination. It’s not a coincidence that depressive conditions appear along with substance abuse, one of the most common ones in the U.S. being alcohol.
3. Limit caffeine as this can make you more irritable in a few ways. If you take in caffeine later in the day, and it disrupts your nighttime sleep, this makes you more apt to be grumpy and out of sorts until you make up that sleep. After the caffeine burst of energy invariably comes a caffeine low that brings on fatigue. Some are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others. If you want to test this for yourself… limit the amount of sodas, tea and coffee you drink, particularly later on in the day, and see what happens when you avoid foods to improve mood.
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