Did you know that there are certain foods you can eat that will help pull yourself (even faster) out of the dreary fog of frigid temps that wreaked havoc on our bodies and minds this winter? These are foods that you can easily integrate into your diet (think oatmeal, yogurt, and yes, even dark chocolate) that have been scientifically proven to boost your mood and restore your optimism. So, to help add that spring back to your step, even before it has actually arrived, we’ve compiled a list of our 7 favourite mood-boosting foods that will give new meaning to the phrase “eat your feelings”.
Rich in carbohydrates, a warm bowl of oatmeal or a chewy cookie is a great way to boost your mood. When your body encounters carbohydrates it produces an amino acid called tryptophan, which stimulates the production of serotonin – a neurotransmitter proven to make you more tranquil and better able to handle what life throws at you. Be sure to select carbs that are high in fiber, so you don’t experience a blood sugar high followed by a depressing crash. Oatmeal not your thing? Swap it out for chickpeas, whole grain bread or potatoes.
Broccoli – Broccoli is an excellent source of chromium; a mineral the body uses to help metabolize food. When suffering from a chromium deficiency, the body has difficulty regulating its insulin production. Since insulin helps process sugar, this causes erratic blood sugar levels, which wreak havoc with your mood. Chromium also boosts the brain’s production of serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin, which leave you feeling content, collected and relaxed. Chromium can also be found in potatoes, turkey and grapes.
Loaded with calcium and vitamin D, yogurt is a potent ally when you’re battling PMS-related depression. Changes in estrogen levels prior to menstruation, affect calcium levels, which can lead to hypocalcaemia (low levels of calcium in the blood). This causes the parathyroid to overproduce its hormone to compensate for the calcium shortage. An excess of this hormone results in feelings of anxiety, fatigue, irritability and mild depression. When a visit from Aunt Flo is imminent, shake the blues away by loading up on yogurt and other calcium rich foods, such as collard greens, kale and ricotta cheese.
Spinach – Spinach contains high levels of foliate (also known as folic acid and B9). A foliate deficiency can lead to fatigue and dwindling serotonin levels, which is guaranteed to make you frown. Folate supports serotonin regulation. Serotonin is vital to mental health since it helps the brain manage mood and determine social behaviour. Other foods high in folate include black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
There isn’t a woman alive who’s surprised to see this on the list. Chocolate is the go-to for anyone nursing a case of the blues, but if you select darker varieties, you’ll get more than its comforting taste. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which has been shown to quiet muscles and reduce anxiety. It also has trace amounts of tryptophan, which relaxes the mind and eases the symptoms associated with depression.
Avocado – Beyond being buttery and delicious, avocados are adept at mellowing you out. Avocados help lower your blood pressure and soothe your nerves thanks to its high levels of monounsaturated fats and potassium. The monounsaturated fats found in avocados also keep the receptors in your brain sensitive to that happy neurotransmitter serotonin.
Cashews - Cashews are chock full of the smile-inducing mineral magnesium. Magnesium plays a vital role in the development of serotonin, which helps us regulate our emotions and steer clear of negative thought processes. If you’re magnesium deficient, you can experience irritability, mental confusion and a predisposition to stress, so be sure to load up on magnesium-rich foods like cashews. If you’re not much of a nut person, give spinach, bananas, or lentils a try.
Susan Keefe is a writer, graphic designer and food enthusiast living in Toronto. She has written for such online publications as Toronto Life and Trend Hunter Magazine. Find her on Twitter @sukeefe.