How are you feeling today? Happy? Sad? Hungry? Though you might not realize it, the foods we eat have a lot of influence over how we feel. There is a reason why you feel better after grabbing a snack, even if it didn’t actually erase your problems, and it’s all in your head. Literally.
The good news is, plenty of research has found there are specific foods that are known to boost your mood. Check out this list of five healthy mood boosting foods you should eat regularly. It will make you feel better before you even have a chance to stand up and head into the kitchen.
1. Fruits and vegetables
When you’re feeling down and distraught, the last thing you will probably be tempted to reach for is a fruit or vegetable. Don’t cross fruits and veggies off the list of possibilities just yet, though. They have the potential to boost your mood in ways you may have never otherwise believed they could.
Research suggests those who eat fruits and vegetables regularly tend to report feeling better mentally. The reason you might not have known this is because it’s hard to recognize that eating fruits and vegetables is what makes us feel better chemically in our brains, not the other way around.
While boosting your mood isn’t the only reason you should eat multiple servings of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, it is a benefit worth taking advantage of. If we ate carrots, celery or strawberries every time we felt sad instead of eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting, we’d be in much better shape in more ways than one.
Have you ever started feeling cranky while getting ready for work, but felt almost instantly better after you ate something? There’s a reason for that, especially if carbs are the first thing you reach for when your stomach starts rumbling.
Research has shown that consuming carbohydrates does have the potential to boost your mood, mainly because of an increased production of certain chemicals in your brain that regulate how you feel. So everything you’ve heard about carbs being “bad” for you, you can pretty much ignore if you want to start feeling better emotionally throughout the day.
What better way to start off your day than a breakfast that will leave you feeling amazing by the time you finish eating it? Try making your own oatmeal for breakfast this week and see how it affects your mood for the remainder of the morning. If you’re not a fan of oatmeal, other carbs, and more than just a granola bar on your way to the office, might also be able to do the trick.
3. Dark Chocolate
Do you ever turn to chocolate when you are sad or upset? It turns out that isn’t the worst decision you have ever made. Chocolate, dark chocolate in particular, is a mood boosting food you can eat every day in small amounts to lift your spirits.
You can thank your hormones for making dark chocolate a reasonable food to eat when you’re feeling down: endorphins and serotonin in particular. Eating a square of dark chocolate can promote the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that stimulate pleasure.
A little dark chocolate also increases the serotonin levels in your body, which in turn act as a sort of natural antidepressant. These things combined will leave you feeling much better and can help you get through the rest of your day, at least until you need to reward yourself with more chocolate.
4. Greek yogurt
Grabbing a yogurt when you’re not feeling at your best might seem like an odd choice, but yogurt, even Greek yogurt, has more mood boosting power in one small container than you probably thought.
What’s so special about Greek yogurt, anyway? Actually, it’s the bacteria you eat along with it that makes it such a mood boosting food. Yes, you read that right. Yogurt contains good bacteria, what you might have heard referred to as “probiotics.” This good bacteria lives in your gut, and is really good for your mental health.
If you want to try Greek yogurt but don’t want too much added sugar, buy plain Greek yogurt and add your own fruit to it. Fresh fruit is good for your mood too, remember? You’re going to feel great after this midmorning snack.
Fruits and vegetables, carbs and dairy are all great for you and can make you feel better when you’re in a funk. What many people forget about is protein, the food that satisfies your appetite the most because it’s literally what the cells that make up the different parts of your body need to survive. Eggs are a great source of protein and have the potential to make you feel better no matter the time of day.
As long as you don’t settle for egg whites only, eggs contain plenty of vitamins and protein, which is, as you can probably guess, nothing but good news for your mood. Protein fills you up, stabilizing your appetite and contributing to the adjustment of your hormones so that you feel less hungry, less cranky and therefore a whole lot happier after eating them.
Try eating an egg salad sandwich for lunch this week to give yourself a healthy midday boost to your mood before heading back into work for the afternoon, or add a hard cooked egg to your salad (it isn’t as “bad” for you as everyone seems to believe).
When you’re not feeling your best emotionally, healthy foods like veggies and yogurt can do your mental health a lot more good than you think. Reach for healthier options to feel better for a longer period of time, instead of choosing a convenience food that will only make you feel better temporarily and won’t satisfy your appetite.
You are, emotionally, what you eat. Pay attention to the food choices you make when you’re feeling down. The right combination of healthy, mood boosting foods will leave you feeling better and better the more often you eat them.