If you're wondering why you're in such a good mood, the answer could be right there in front of you, sitting on a plate. There's a lot of...
If you’re wondering why you’re in such a good mood, the answer could be right there in front of you, sitting on a plate.
There’s a lot of research out there showing a connection between the foods we eat and our mood.
“What and when we eat directly affects mood. And our mood not only affects what we choose to eat, but how our body responds to that food,” writes registered dietitian Susan Kleiner in her book, “The Good Mood Diet: Feel Great While You Lose Weight” (Springboard Press, $23.99).
To Kleiner, the food-mood connection should be an integral component of a weight-loss plan.
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“It’s all about how you feel. Weight loss is a lousy motivator to keep you on a plan because weight loss is long-term,” she said. “How you feel is what’s going to make you stick to a plan and, if you stick to a plan, you’ll lose weight.”
Here are 10 foods nutrition experts say can boost your mood:
Milk: Dairy products have lots of whey protein, which can reduce physical responses to stress, improve mood and enhance memory, according to Kleiner.
If milk upsets your digestive system or gives you sinus troubles, try not to drink too much at one time. Stick to an 8-ounce — 1-cup — serving. Kleiner also recommends fat-free organic milk.
Oily fish: We’re talking about salmon, mackerel and sardines. These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and studies have established a connection between low levels of omega-3s and increased depression.
The downside is, “You cannot so easily get foods that are rich in omega-3s,” said registered dietitian Joy Bauer. But if you don’t like fish, you can get your omega-3s from ground flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts and omega-3-fortified eggs.
Strawberries: Strawberries contain soluble fiber, which helps slow the digestion process, which can, in turn, keep blood-sugar levels stable and help you feel even-tempered and less irritable. Berries in general contain antioxidants, which are critical for the health of the brain.
Spinach: Spinach is a great source of folic acid, a B vitamin also known as folate.
Clinical studies have linked a deficiency of folic acid to depression, in part because too little folic acid leads to lower levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help stabilize mood.
Other foods loaded with folic acid include sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, wheat germ, oatmeal, black-eyed peas, lentils, soybeans and mustard greens.
Sweet potatoes: Eating complex carbohydrates sets off a process that results in boosting your levels of serotonin. This brain chemical packs a wallop when it comes to mood enhancement. Carbs trigger the production of insulin, which clears glucose and amino acids from the bloodstream. This process paves the way for another amino acid, tryptophan, to cross the blood-brain barrier and get to work on boosting serotonin levels.
Complex carbs offer far more nutritional value than cookies, candy and soda, and they’re more slowly absorbed in your bloodstream, which contributes to keeping blood-sugar levels — and your mood — stabilized.
Turkey: You need tryptophan to boost your serotonin. Tryptophan comes from meat sources, and turkey is a very lean food containing the highest levels of this amino acid. Tryptophan can also make you feel calm. Now you know why you feel sleepy after a huge turkey dinner. Other sources are lean pork, chicken and beef.
Brazil nuts: One brazil nut will give you all the selenium you need to elevate your mood. Studies conducted on this trace mineral found study participants’ moods brightened considerably when they got enough selenium. Don’t feast on brazil nuts with the idea that more is better, because selenium can be toxic. Additional sources of selenium are tuna, whole-grain cereals and swordfish.
Low-fat yogurt: Yogurt is a good source of protein, which can help sustain your good mood by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates in the bloodstream, just like soluble fiber does. For other sources of protein, try lean meat, eggs, veal and tofu.
Caffeine: All right, it’s not a food. But Kleiner says that, in moderate amounts, it enhances physical and mental performance. And what can be more mood-boosting than being in good mental and physical form? The operating word, here, though, is “moderate.” Drinking too much can jangle the nerves or spark a headache. Kleiner suggests sticking to one or two cups of coffee and drinking them before lunch.
Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese is a rich source of Vitamin B12. Like folic acid, its B-vitamin counterpart, decreased levels of B12 have been linked to depression. You can also get your B12 from clams and oysters.
Sources: Dietitian Susan Kleiner; Karen Ensle, a family and community health sciences educator for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service; “Food — Your Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Cure Over 100 Symptoms and Problems” by Jean Carper.