Nutritious foods that boost mood

Is there a link between the food you eat and your mood? Yes! Nutrients in food can affect mood by modifying the production or release of brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters.

andrea hill

Andrea Hill, registered nutritionist

Neurotransmitters help the cells in our brain communicate with each other and are affected by the foods we eat. These neurotransmitters affect our mood, our alertness, and even our ability to learn.

Any drastic change to normal eating patterns can affect blood sugar and alter the neurotransmitters in your brain, ultimately affecting your mood – this includes crash dieting, bingeing on sweets, and skipping meals.

Foods that boost Your Mood

Popcorn: As a whole grain, popcorn is a low-glycemic carbohydrate that slowly converts to sugar so it keeps your energy levels up longer. At only 100 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber per three-cup serving, this is a light snack you can feel good about. The best option is air-popped with no butter or a low-fat microwaveable variety that has zero grams of Trans-fat per serving.

Oranges and orange juice: If you are looking for something sweet, eat an orange or drink a small glass of orange juice. This fruit is one of the best sources of vitamin C and when under stress, you need more vitamin C to produce stress hormones in the body. Plus, it helps your body absorb up to four more times the amount of iron in plant foods which can keep energy levels up. Fortified juice drinks are not the same! You want to look for 100 pre cent unsweetened orange juice or better – squeeze it yourself.

Walnuts: Walnuts supply an excellent source of an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA – or alpha linolenic acid. Because of its role in producing mood-lifting brain chemicals, studies suggest that people who get more ALA in their diets have lower rates of depression.

Salmon: Here is another food rich in omega-3s and important when it comes to brain health. Salmon, however, goes one step further supplying a good dose of vitamin D, which recent research has linked to lower rates of depression in women and older adults.

Dark Chocolate: I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the term ‘chocoholic’. There are many theories on why people love and crave chocolate. Chocolate contains a natural chemical called phenyl-ethyl-amine.

Some experts say it stimulates the same feelings people experience when in love. Others argue that our love for chocolate is purely sensory – the smell, the taste, and the mouth-feel of chocolate. So if the mood for chocolate should strike, a little bit is okay – go for dark chocolate though (at least 70 pre cent).

Foods that deflate your mood

Just as there are foods that can boost your mood there are also specific foods and eating patterns that can negatively affect your mood:

Avoid restrictive diets: Restricting calories and skipping meals can lower your blood sugar and lead to mood swings, irritability, lack of concentration and headaches.

Keep carbs: Don’t cut out carbohydrates, especially at breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Eating too few carbs can cause low blood sugar, fatigue, and limit the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relaxes, calms us, and makes us feel happy.

Restrict caffeine and alcohol: Both can impact your ability to have a good night’s sleep, which can negatively impact your energy level and mood the next day.

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