Did being stuck in traffic this morning make you late for an appointment? Maybe you accidently spilled steaming hot coffee on your new shirt. Whatever the instance, there are ways to show that bad mood to the door before it makes itself comfortable. And it all starts with food! Yes, foods that are rich in vitamin B12 and folate (spinach), omega-3 fatty acids (fish), and those feel-good chemicals (dark chocolate). Feeling better already? Let’s take a look at how you can eat your way to a happier day.
Spinach (and most leafy vegetables) contains a beneficial dose of folate, or folic acid, which supports serotonin regulation. According to fitness and health media startup Greatist, “Serotonin passes messages between nerve cells and helps the brain manage a variety of functions, from determining mood to regulating social behavior.” So, spinach not only helps us grow up to be big and strong, but it also affects neurotransmitters to impact our mood.
No wonder why dark chocolate is considered a natural aphrodisiac. It contains mood-boosting compounds, such as phenylethylamine, or the “love drug,” that releases powerful brain chemicals, heightens excitement, and increases serotonin levels. Additionally, EatingWell magazine features a study done at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland, showing that eating dark chocolate (1.4 ounces) every day for two weeks reduced stress hormones, including cortisol, in people who were highly stressed.
Walnuts contain special omega-3 fatty acids that support our hearts, mood, and our most important organ: the brain. Shape magazine stresses the importance of walnuts as part of their Best Foods to Boost Your Mood list, saying, “Arizona State University researchers reported that high intakes of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fat found in walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seed, can keep you feeling chipper.” If you’re wondering how to incorporate these guys into your diet, you can eat them raw or sprinkle them on top of your salad.
Fish carries omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for human health, and since our bodies can’t produce them naturally, we must make a stand to add them ourselves. Don’t get this kind confused with the omega-3 found in walnuts, though—they’re a little different. Rather, the two active forms of omega-3 fats in fish are EPA and DHA, which can help alleviate depression and balance our mood. With that said, a study in the Nutrition journal found that women with the highest intakes of EPA and DHA were less likely to experience symptoms of depression.
One of the world’s healthiest foods, quinoa, contains several different nutrients that work wonders for our bodies and minds, including manganese, phosphorus, copper, fiber, and zinc. Quinoa is also a complete protein, working to keep your blood sugar and energy levels at bay. Greatist says, “Quinoa’s not only an awesome vegan protein source—it’s also a complex carbohydrate that can help prevent depression and anxiety by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.”
There are actually a few ways to incorporate all five of these ingredients for a mood-boosting meal. For dinner, whip up some delicious salmon and a side of quinoa with roasted garlic and spinach, and for dessert, how about healthy dark chocolate-covered walnuts? Now we’re hungry. If you know of any foods that have helped enhance your mood, please share them in the comment section below!