You know what they say. . . “You are what you eat,” and as Hippocrates is quoted, “let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” What we put into our bodies can affect lots of things, not only how we function physically, but mentally as well. So, what should you eat if you want to boost your brain, benefit your body, and be in a better mood?
OMEGA-3 RICH FATTY FISH
You may already be taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement, but adding more fatty fish like salmon and tuna can benefit your health. In addition to a healthier heart, omega-3 can also be mood-boosting.
Whether you prefer your salmon and tuna raw in sushi or well done (baked, grilled, or cooked in a pan), having fish a few times a week is a good idea. Other good-mood food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, anchovies, mackerel, walnuts, flax, chia seeds, and cod liver oil.
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Eating foods with lots of vitamin D can promote a similar kind of mood-boosting effect of a bright, sunny day while providing other nutritional health benefits. Studies have shown that increasing vitamin D intake may boost serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy, brightening your mood. If you’re lacking in serotonin, you may be more likely to experience mood disorders, including SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
While you can increase your vitamin D levels taking higher dosages of vitamin supplements and with more exposure to the sun (UVB rays), it’s also a good idea to improve your diet with foods that contain vitamin D like fatty fish, cheese, egg yolks, and liver.
FOLATE-RICH FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Avoid depression and an impaired metabolism with fresh fruits and veggies that are ideal sources of folate. Fruits, especially citrus, are rich in folate. Veggies plentiful in folate include avocados, artichokes, okra, broccoli, edamame, spinach, and turnip greens. Also, find folate in legumes like beans and lentils.
PROBIOTIC-RICH FERMENTED FOODS
Good for your gut, fermented foods can help your umpteen trillion friends – beneficial bacteria – survive and thrive. You need them to be healthy and strong to boost your immune system and ward off illnesses. By supporting the growth of these LIVE microorganisms, you can also boost your serotonin levels, enabling that “happy hormone” that can combat depression.
Up to a whopping 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced by your gut’s microbiome. By getting your fermented “fix,” you are doing your health a favor – amping up your defenses against threats like viruses and diseases. Fermenting your own foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir) and beverages (kombucha) is a process, but a fairly easy one you can do right in your own kitchen.
MODERATE AMOUNTS OF CAFFEINE
Believe it or not, caffeine can be beneficial when it’s not overdone. Caffeine can trigger the release of helpful brain chemicals like dopamine whose role is performance and mood. In a research study, moderate caffeine intake from coffee and tea was found to have a positive, protective impact on decreasing the risk of depression. In terms of teas, black teas generally have the highest amount of caffeine, green teas have less than black teas, white teas have less than green teas, and herbal teas have no caffeine. Overdo it, though, and you may experience some negative side effects like jitters, anxiety, headaches, mood swings, and insomnia.
DELICIOUS DARK CHOCOLATE
You won’t mind this sweet treat on the list of good-mood foods! Yes, you can actually benefit your brain and body with a little dark chocolate. It can be hard to turn this one down, but don’t overdo it, chocoholics! So, what’s the right amount? Generally, one to two squares (70% or more cocoa solids) should do it and should also be enough to sate your sweet tooth!
Adapting your diet to be more nutritionally beneficial is how you can achieve better health. We can all get healthier, boosting our brainpower, revving up our immune systems, and improving our moods. Your health, wellness, and life can always improve; it’s up to you!