There will be times in our lives that are not good. Some will be as devastating as losing a loved one and having to deal with funeral plans such as searching for urns for cremation ashes, and others will be much less upsetting but will still put you in a bad mood, such as being cut up on the highway or having to deal with angry customers at work. Sometimes you might just be feeling bad for no particular reason (although there always is a reason, you just might not be aware of it, especially if it’s a hormonal change).
When this happens, it can be tempting to reach for unhealthy food to comfort you. Chocolate, cake, ice cream and heavy dishes such as shepherd’s pie, mac and cheese, and sloppy joes can all improve the mood, but they won’t make you feel good in the long term because they are bad for you. Instead, it’s better to eat food that will raise your mood and keep you fit and healthy. Read on to find out what some of them are.
Although the word ‘fatty’ might make you think that this particular food is unhealthy, the truth is that there are some fats that the body needs to function well, and the fats within some fish – omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – can be exactly what you need.
These two types of fats in particular have been linked to improving depression levels and generally boosting your mood. As an additional benefit, they also improve memory and brain function; those old wives’ tales about fish being brain food weren’t actually wrong. Of course, it depends on the fish, and the best fish to obtain good levels of omega-3 from includes salmon, cod, herring, and mackerel.
When you think of chocolate, you’re not usually going to think of healthy food, but again, it depends on the type of chocolate you choose as to how it affects your mood and your health.
When you eat chocolate, you will release compounds that include theobromine, caffeine, and N-acylethanolamine. This last substance in particular is one that has a chemical structure similar to cannabinoids. All of these components have been shown to improve mood, although do bear in mind that some of this might be psychological – the chocolate itself may not contain quite enough to trigger any kind of response, but thinking that it will might.
No matter what the case might be in this regard, chocolate will contain flavonoids that help regulate mood, increase blood flow to the brain, and even reduce inflammation. The key with chocolate is to eat it only in moderation (just one or two squares at a time rather than a whole bar) and to opt for dark chocolate since it contains less fat and added sugar.
Bananas can be a perfect mood enhancer. This is because they contain high levels of vitamin B6, which is responsible for synthesizing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are well-known for making people feel good. Add to this the fact that bananas have good levels of fiber meaning that the sugar it contains (around 16 grams for a large banana) will be released slowly into the bloodstream giving you more energy over a longer period of time, and you’ve got the ideal snack – it makes you feel good, and it is healthier than a lot of other options you could consume.
Oats are most often associated with breakfast food, and if you want to keep your mood high and your spirits up all day, then they make the perfect choice for your first meal in the morning. Whether you opt for muesli, oatmeal, granola, or you want to prepare overnight oats, the result will be the same.
To begin with, oats contain around eight grams of fiber per cup. When you have enough fiber in your diet, any carbs you eat will be digested more slowly, and the sugar within them will be released more slowly too, as a result. When you don’t have large peaks and troughs of sugar in your blood, your mood will remain more stable, and you’ll be less susceptible to mood swings.
On top of this, oats also contain plenty of iron – in just one cup, you can obtain about 19 percent of your entire daily iron intake. Why is this a good thing? It’s good because, when you don’t have enough iron, you can develop iron deficiency anemia, the symptoms of which include mood disorders.
Studies are still ongoing as to why a diet with more fruit and vegetables in it offers lower rates of depression, the fact is that this is the outcome. The healthier you eat, the better you will feel both physically and mentally. One of the prevailing theories is that when you eat a diet rich in antioxidants, you won’t be so inflamed. Inflammation can be something that causes mood disorders and depression, so this idea does seem to make sense.
When you’re looking for fruit that contains the most antioxidants, berries are the answer. The best ones to pick are darker berries – the ones that are more purple or blue in color. The anthocyanins (a type of antioxidant) give them that color, and this substance will ease inflammation quickly. You can even use frozen berries to great effect if you’re looking for a way to boost your mood; since they are frozen when they are at their ripest, the antioxidants will be at their peak.
Coffee isn’t a food exactly, but it can boost the mood, and since most people drink it anyway (it’s the most popular beverage in the world), it deserves a place on this list. The reason it is so good at improving how you feel is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the caffeine it includes.
But it’s not the caffeine itself that is the mood improver. Instead, it’s the adenosine, a naturally occurring substance, within the caffeine. Adenosine increases alertness by attaching to the tiredness receptors in the brain, and when you feel more awake, you feel more alive – and your mood is boosted significantly.
Eating healthy has a lot to do with your ingredients. And even if you are not cooking yourself, it is better to buy food only from places you trust. For example, if you want crepes, you should ask around for a crepe restaurant that is particular about its ingredients. That way, you can be sure to eat well and not compromise your well-being.