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12 Foods for a Happy Mood

If you have ever felt groggy and irritable following a heavy eating pattern of simple sugars, refined carbs and vegetable oils, it wasn’t just all in your head… without the proper nutritional needs, the body may become affected, mood included.


If you have ever felt groggy and irritable following a heavy eating pattern of simple sugars, refined carbs and vegetable oils, it wasn’t just all in your head…

The brain requires adequate fuel to sustain and grow its strength, sharpness, and overall health and unfortunately, the nutrients the brain needs are stripped away in the Americanized food supply and culture.

So without the proper nutritional needs, the body may become affected, mood included. In fact, research backs an unhealthful diet a risk factor for depression and mood disorders.

What the Research Says:

An eye-opening study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry investigated the association between dietary patterns and depression using an overall diet approach.

After analyzing the diets of almost 3,500 middle-aged participants, researchers found those who consumed a whole foods diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fish had lower rates of depression compared to those with a higher consumption processed foods rich in sweetened desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products.

Another study published in the British Medical Journal Open and based on Sax’s 45 and Up Study further solidifies consuming healthful foods supports mental health.

After measuring fruit and veggie consumption, lifestyle factors, and psychological distress on two separate occasions of over 60,000 Australians aged 45 years or older, researchers found people who consumed 3 to 4 servings of veggies per day reduced their risk of stress by 12 percent compared to those who ate 0 to 1 serving. Furthermore, 5 to 7 servings of fruits and veggies lowered stress risk by 14 percent compared to others consuming 0 to 4 servings.

Compared to women who ate 0 to 1 servings per day, women who ate 2 daily servings of fruit lowered their risk of stress by 16 percent; 3 to 4 servings of vegetables lowered risk by 18 percent; and 5 to 7 servings of fruits and veggies lowered risk by 23 percent.

12 Foods to Improve Mood

1. Oats

Oats are power-packed with slow-releasing complex carbs and fiber to help stabilize blood sugar levels, thus protecting against energy crashes, brain fog, and irritability.

Furthermore, complex carbs increase serotonin levels, which have a calming effect on the body. Consuming adequate fiber (men should consume at least 38 grams per day while women at least 26 grams) can also improve mood on a regular basis, as diets low in fiber have been linked to higher rates of depression.

2. Eggs

Eggs can truly be a food that makes you happy in the morning hours, as they crack open to mood-boosting nutrients.

First off, egg yolks are one of the few dietary sources that supply vitamin D, with low levels of the vitamin associated with depression and mood disorders.

Eggs are also rich in tyrosine, an amino acid required for the production of dopamine, which helps support and enhance mood, concentration, memory and alertness.

3. Bananas

Just another reason to go bananas about this relished fruit… The steady carbs from bananas can keep hunger and blood sugars balanced, thus stabilizing mood.

Potassium found in bananas can protect against weakness and depression, while its tryptophan content has shown to regulate mood.

4. Spinach

Spinach and other leafy greens overflow with folate, a B vitamin showing to enhancing brain health. Furthermore, folate deficiency is associated with depression and dementia.

The leafy green is also rich in magnesium, a mineral involved in energy production and combats against overall fatigue and weakness. People with low magnesium levels may exhibit mental confusion and personality changes, along with facing anxiety and hallucinations.

5. Tomatoes

Lycopene is a carotenoid, a pigment that grants tomatoes its luscious red color. In addition to gifting its color, lycopene acts as an antioxidant that helps protect against cellular damage, including in the brain.

Interestingly, a tomato a day may keep depression away, as the relative risk of having mild and severe depressive symptom was 52 percent less in those eating tomatoes or tomato products once or more each day compared to those who reported consumption of once a week or less

6. Avocados

While avocados are known for their unique fat content, they also are excellent sources of mood-boosting nutrients, including fiber, potassium, folate, magnesium and B vitamins.

And we will cheers to that with these avocado toast recipes!

7. Oranges

Just at first smell the invigorating zest of an orange grants itself as a feel good food mood booster! And that’s only the beginning…

Take a bite and oranges are bursting with vitamin C, a nutrient shown to boost mood and lower anxiety levels. And being a citrus fruit, oranges are naturally a good source of folate to support brain health.

8. Milk

While known for its ample calcium content, milk is a rich source of vitamin B12, which is recognized as energy powerhouse. Vitamin B12 helps to make DNA, nerves, and blood cells, functions imperative for keeping a healthy brain.

The iodine found in milk is critical for optimal thyroid function and proper brain and nerve development and formation. Not enough iodine in the diet can result to depression, brain fog, and anxiety.

9. Turkey

Turkey is notorious for its tryptophan content, which is an amino acids produced into serotonin. Also known as the “feel good” hormone, serotonin can elevate mood and initiate calmness.

And to debunk the "Turkey caused my midafternoon Thanksgiving nap" myth, turkey may be needed to fill the tryptophan tank, but carbohydrate (including that scoop of mashed potatoes and slice of pumpkin pie) is suggested to "empty" it out.

And ultimately, the total plate, filled with both tryptophan and carbohydrate, is suggested to induce sleepiness, rather than turkey primarily on its own.

10. Salmon

Salmon and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of healthy fat shown to support both heart and brain health. Furthermore, a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a lower incidence of depression.

As a general recommendation, aim for two servings of fish per week, along with enjoying this blackened salmon recipe thanks to bistroMD!

11. Water

While not a food per se, the importance of water should not go unnoticed. Without adequate fluid, water especially, you run the danger of dehydration and increase the risk of feeling weak, dizzy, lightheaded, and confused.

Drink at least 64-ounces of water daily, along with reducing the intake of soft drinks and sweet beverages that essentially offer nothing more than calories and sugar.

12. Coffee

Okay, coffee is not a food, either… But coffee has proven to boost energy and mood levels, and stave off depression risk.

It is likewise important to mention since caffeine is a stimulant and too much can leave you feeling anxious and disturb sleep cycles, which negates its mood-boosting vibes. So when drinking coffee, keep cups moderated and confine caffeine consumption to the morning and early afternoon hours to lower the risk of an impaired sleep onset.

Putting It Altogether:

• Consuming a healthful breakfast consistently shows to improve mood along with more energy throughout the day. And when breakfast is skipped, energy levels can become compromised and lead to fatigue throughout the day’s entirety. Thanks to these overnight oat recipes, you do not have to miss oat on a mood-boosting breakfast!

• Eat consistently throughout the day to maintain energy and mood levels, including high-fiber, protein-packed meals and snacks.

• Load up with the meal plate with colorful fruits and veggies and offer variety in your diet to ensure adequate intake of all vitamins and minerals.

• Reduce the intake of highly processed foods to combat against chronic inflammation and elevated levels of C-reactive protein, which is associated with increased risk of psychological distress and depression.

Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on October 01, 2018. Updated on September 24, 2019.


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