The kinds of food that can improve your mood

With the ever evolving nutrition research, it can be difficult to have confidence over nutrition advice, especially the one that is said to have influence over our mental health. Yes, you read that right – food can have an effect on our mood. Although it has remained in the extreme fringe of soft science so far, recent studies and evidence have allowed nutritional psychiatry to gain traction in the scientific community. Experts now can offer recommendations with greater conviction.

It is very common for people to reach out to comfort foods such as chocolates, chips and ice-creams whenever they are feeling down. While these might give instant gratification, high carbohydrate, sugar and salty foods can contribute to activation of inflammatory systems that can in turn have adverse effect on mental health in the long run. Not to mention, saturated and trans fat, refined grains and ultra-processed food are also listed as pro inflammatory foods.

Thankfully, research also tells us that a diverse, nutrient-rich diet can be protective of our brain and mood. So, here’s to a list of food that can elevate mood and alleviate mental ailments.

Food rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

This nutrient is commonly found in fish and sea foods( such as salmon, tuna and anchovies), nuts and seeds( such as flax seeds, chia seeds and walnut) and plant oils like soybean and canola oil. Consuming this can lower the level of depression.

Fermented Food

Growing evidence show that the gut and brain is connected via many direct and indirect nervous pathways. Thus the microbiome of the gut can influence our mind. Fermented food promotes production of probiotics which allows gut bacteria to thrive. These bacteria in turn produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin which regulates mood. Yogurt, kimchi and kefir are good sources.

Berries

These are packed with antioxidants and phenol compounds  which help combat oxidative stress. In addition, antioxidants can help manage inflammation associated with depression and other mood disorders.

Beans and Lentils

These are great sources of vitamin B – a nutrient that help elevate mood by producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Whole Grains

Oatmeal, muesli and granola are rich in fiber which helps slow  digestion of carbs, allowing for a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream to keep energy levels stable. In one study, those who ate 1.5–6 grams of fiber at breakfast reported better mood and energy levels. This was attributed to more stable blood sugar levels, which is important for controlling mood swings and irritability.

Dark Chocolate

A square or two of a dark chocolate bar daily goes a long way to  improve mood. Cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine , the make feel good chemicals, in addition to increasing blood flow in the brain resulting in an overall positive outlook.

Apart from the mental health benefits these foods are said to have , they also contribute to the overall well-being of our physical health. Therefore, adopting these dietary choices are guaranteed to help one way or the other.

Contributor
Nushin Nawar
Student, Mastermind School

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