We all have down days. Sometimes we feel low as a result of bad news or circumstances; other times, we’re just plain grumpy, pessimistic, and/or sad. Whatever the source of your blues, you probably don’t want to remain in that state very long, but it’s hard to pull yourself out. If this isn’t a serious clinical case of depression (in which case you should talk to your doctor), you may be able to alter your mood with some food.
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Many symptoms of depression can be linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially since the average American meal plan is full of empty carbs, caffeine and sugar. While these foods may taste good and feel good, this is temporary; the initial energetic high eventually wears off and the “crash” results in a low mood. Not to mention, those foods pack on the pounds. Do your body a favor and resist those temptations, and eat some of these whole foods that will boost your mood and keep it there.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the best natural antidepressants. In fact, research has shown that depressed people often lack a fatty acid known as EPA. Food rich in omega-3s include walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and green, leafy vegetables.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that's a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin, the brain's feel-good hormone that regulates mood. You may recognize tryptophan because it is often associated with feeling sleepy after eating turkey. However, this blues-beater can also be found in foods like bananas, oatmeal, soy-milk, and seeds.
Carbohydrates make us feel good because they increase the production of serotonin. As mentioned above, stay away from the empty carbs and indulge in the good kinds like: fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grain cereals, oats, breads, and pastas.
B vitamins are associated with the control of mood because they enable the body to absorb sugar at a slower pace, which prevents mood swings. You can find them in foods like whole grains, brown rice, oats, and Brewer’s yeast.
Folate, or Folic acid (aka vitamin B9), is a good protector against stress and bad moods. Be sure to include this in your diet: cabbage, brown rice, whole-grain oats, quinoa, kamut, spelt, dark leafy greens, beans and legumes, broccoli, and cauliflower are all good choices.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which are substances that absorb the free radicals produced by various forms of stress on the body and mind. Keep yourself happy by having these in the kitchen: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato, and cabbage.
Vitamin D has been shown to help with seasonal affective disorder. While it is primarily generated via skin exposure to the sun's ultraviolet B rays, it can be found in some supplemented foods like soy-milk and orange juice.
Super Mood-Boosting Foods
You may have noticed some specific foods showing up time and time again, so make a point to buy them the next time you go to the grocery store. Some of the more common are oats, cabbage, leafy greens, and seeds.
While you are encouraged to experiment with your diet and see what foods make you feel better, it’s important to have a discussion with your healthcare practitioner if you have regular low moods or feelings of depression.