Can you eat yourself happy? We don’t mean the bliss that comes from chocolate cake or your favorite cheeseburger and fries! After all you are what you eat — and a poor diet can leave you feeling tired and cranky. We’re talking about foods that can help keep the blues at bay and give you a zest for life! We’ve highlighted some foods and key nutrients that may boost your mood.
Multiple studies have shown a connection between omega-3 fatty acids and a lower risk of depressive disorders. Although the research is preliminary, omega-3 fatty acids are believed to influence mood. Certain inflammatory chemicals in the brain called cytokines can cause feelings of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids block the action of these cytokines. Recent clinical studies have found that patients with a variety of mental health disorders, from bipolar depression to anxiety, may benefit from omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Before starting any treatment however, always speak with your physician.
Foods rich in omega-3 fats include: oily fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines), ground flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs.
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of vitamin D for bone health. But recent research suggests that vitamin D might also help relieve mood disorders. Scientists have found that vitamin D can boost serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters responsible for mood. In particular, vitamin D seems to help the type of depression called “seasonal affective disorder (SAD),” also known as the winter blues.
Vitamin D can be obtained from moderate sun exposure, depending on where you live and the time of year. But don’t overlook food sources of vitamin D: fat free and low-fat dairy, fortified soy milk, fatty fish and egg yolks. Because vitamin D-rich foods are limited, it may help to take a daily multivitamin which provides 600 IU (800 IU if you are over age 70).
Vitamin B12, along with other B vitamins, appears to play a role in mental health. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to some serious problems including anemia, nervous system disorders, as well as impaired mental function and depression. Observational studies have found that as many as 30% of patients hospitalized for depression are deficient in vitamin B12.
Foods rich in vitamin B12: shellfish (clams, oysters, crab), wild salmon (fresh or canned), fortified whole-grain breakfast cereal, lean beef, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, milk (skim, skim plus, 1% reduced-fat) and eggs.
Another important B vitamin, folate, may help boost your mood and reduce fatigue. Scientists believe folate is used by the body to create the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter, seratonin. As with vitamin B12, observational studies have shown that patients with depressive disorders are more likely to have folate deficiencies than those without depression.
Foods rich in folate: leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and spinach – also fortified whole grains, beans and lentils, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and oranges.
At AppforHealth.com we LOVE breakfast. Not only does it give you energy to start the day, studies show that eating breakfast can lift your mood. People who eat breakfast report feeling less tired and irritable than those who don’t. A balanced breakfast has also been found to improve concentration, job performance, and even help manage weight. Now that’s definitely something to feel good about!
A solid breakfast should contain complex carbohydrates (from whole grain cereals like oats, wheat or bran) and protein (from foods like eggs, low fat dairy, and nuts). For a good start to your day, try some whole wheat waffles topped with non fat (or low fat) Greek yogurt, fresh berries, and walnuts or a veggie omelet with a side of whole grain toast.
Katherine Brooking, MS, RD
Co-Author, 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions (Penguin, 2013)
Appetite for Health