The Real Happy Meal: 7 Foods to Boost Your Mood
When you’re down in the dumps, it’s normal to seek solace in some of your favorite comfort foods. The problem? Most of the common foods you indulge in when you are feeling upset, like ice cream or cake, may actually do more to contribute to bad moods than they do to ease them. When it comes to boosting your mood through food, your best options may be some of the last foods you would have considered.
Check out some of our top picks to see some of the best foods you can chow down on next time you need a pick-me-up.
Walnuts contain two primary nutrients that contribute to boosting your mood: omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. The former increases serotonin levels in your body, and the latter helps regulate your blood sugar levels, both of which are important in elevating your mood and possibly fighting off the symptoms of depression.
Oranges are a strong source of vitamin C, which produces endorphins in your body. And in the words of “Legally Blonde” heroine Elle Woods, “endorphins make you happy.” Overall, the antioxidant rich fruit can have a number of benefits when it comes to boosting your energy levels, your body’s health, and your mood.
Calcium is a key nutrient when it comes to releasing feel-good chemicals into your body that can reduce moodiness, anxiety, and depression. While you can also turn to low-fat milk or other variations of yogurt for a helpful dose of calcium, Greek yogurt gives your body more per serving than other sources, making it one of your best options when it comes to boosting your calcium intake and your mood, as a result.
Chocolate might already be one of your go-to comfort foods, and the good news is it actually works to boost your mood — as long as you’re eating the right kind and watching your portions. Cocoa can calm anxiety and improve blood flow to the brain, all of which contributes to its ability to boost your mood. The problem is that when most people reach for chocolate to beat the blues, they go for milk chocolate, which is high in sugar and doesn’t contain as much cocoa as it should to help boost your mood. Instead, go for darker varieties — the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better. Also, be sure to watch your portions. You don’t want to overdo it with chocolate, and studies have found that around one to two ounces a day can prove effective in reducing depression and elevating moods over time.
Carbohydrates are tricky. While your body needs them to create energy, eating them in excess contributes to weight gain and may make you feel sluggish and lethargic. The key is distinguishing between good and bad carbs, and limiting your intake to keep it within healthy serving recommendations. Instead of reaching for processed carbs, you should aim to eat complex carbs low on the glycemic index, like popcorn. These carbs can reduce anxiety by promoting healthy serotonin levels in your body.
A lot of times when you’re feeling down, you find yourself craving sugary sweets, but sugar may actually be more harmful to your bad moods than helpful. Honey is the perfect alternative to satisfy your sweet tooth and give you the comfort you need, as its natural sugars do not wreak the same havoc on your body that processed sugars do, and its richness in compounds that reduce inflammation helps promote healthier brain function and reduce negative emotions.
Tomatoes, and more specifically tomato skins, are rich in lycopene, a nutrient that promotes brain health and reduces inflammation linked to depression. In order to get the most mood-boosting benefits out of tomatoes, opt for cherry tomatoes — the smaller size and surface area means you will be eating more skin than if you go for larger varieties.
Did you know these foods could be healthier and more effective replacements to common comfort foods? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi