There are lots of foods that bring a smile to my face: cookies, veggie burritos and peanut butter oatmeal (trust me, it’s delicious) are just a few. But it turns out some foods don’t just please the palate; they stimulate the brain and make us physically happy, too. When we need a little pick-me-up, we should skip the cookies (as yummy as they are, the sugar rush destabilizes our moods) and seek out these foods instead.
This leafy green is loaded with the B vitamin folate, which has been linked to depression when levels are too low. B vitamins help the brain produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and behavior.
Turkey’s full of tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to create mood-regulating serotonin and melatonin. Since our bodies don’t produce tryptophan naturally, we must get it from food sources. For a non-poultry vehicle for the amino acid, try pineapple, cottage cheese or lobster.
Researchers at the Massachusetts based McLean Hospital found that rats’ moods improved when given an injection of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts and ground flaxseeds (they have to be ground for the body to absorb the nutrients) are the best non-animal source of omega-3s.
- Milk/Non-Dairy Milk
Milk products and vitamin-fortified non-dairy products (soy milk, almond milk, etc.) are rich in vitamin D, which can increase serotonin production and has been linked to reducing depression in some people. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that vitamin D alleviated some depressive symptoms.
Like turkey, soy products such as tofu and edamame have high levels of tryptophan. Soybeans also rank low on the glycemic index, meaning they don’t spike energy levels too quickly and won’t cause a mood crash later.
If you’re not a vegetarian, the best way to get a good dose of omega-3s into your diet is through salmon. Not a fan of salmon? Tuna and herring boast a decent amount of the fatty acids as well.
Protein and fiber-filled legumes, like black beans and lentils, are also packed with iron, an essential mineral that combats lethargy and gives us energy.