There’s no doubt that what you eat plays a role in how you feel. There are foods and beverages that can naturally boost levels of brain chemicals and hormones that control your mood.
Here are five foods to add to your plate for mood control and better mental health management.
The caffeine in green tea may rev you up, but it’s another compound in green tea called theanine that’ll give you mental clarity on those days when you feel overwhelmed by too many projects, and that four-letter word – stress. According to a study carried out at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, people who drank five or more cups of green tea a day experienced fewer symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Research shows that theanine boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, brain neurotransmitters involved in mood. To get these mood-boosting benefits, sip a high-quality, loose leaf Japanese green tea. Low-quality green teas contain little of this stress-busting compound.
Who doesn’t feel better when they bite into a chocolate bar? According to a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, nibbling on small quantities of dark chocolate helps to lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine that are linked with anxiety and depression.
Choose dark chocolate with a cacoa content of 70% or more for maximal benefits. A square or two of dark chocolate should do the trick. Otherwise, the calories can really add up.
Salmon is a rich source of brain-boosting fats called omega-3s. Research has linked low levels of omega-3s with depression and anxiety. This isn’t surprising since the brain is made up primarily of fats, and fatty acids are important for keeping signals moving smoothly through the brain.
Wild-caught salmon is one of the best natural sources of omega-3s, although tuna, mackerel and sardines are other fish high in omega-3s. Choose wild salmon since farm-raised is lower in omega-3s and higher in toxins. For the most mental health management benefits, eat a serving of wild salmon twice a week.
Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic-acid, a compound that’s converted to omega-3 fatty by the body. Salmon is a better source of brain-friendly omega-3s than walnuts because they’re already in a form the body can use, and not everyone is an efficient converter of alpha-linolenic-acid to omega-3. But walnuts are an alternative way for vegetarians to get some of the benefits of omega-3s without eating fish.
Munch on a handful of walnuts when you’re feeling stressed instead of reaching for a cookie. The sugar in the cookie can make you feel worse by raising your blood sugar levels quickly and then causing them to crash. Walnuts won’t do that.
Egg yolks are a good source of choline, a form of B vitamin that is important for a healthy nervous system. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that higher choline levels are linked with reduced rates of anxiety.
When you begin the day with a plate of eggs, it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which can have a positive impact on mood. Eggs are also a good source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is precursor to serotonin, a brain chemical that helps to regulate mood. To help tryptophan make its journey to the brain a little easier, eat eggs with a source of carbohydrates. How about a morning bowl of oatmeal with walnuts sprinkled on top and a scrambled egg?
The bottom line?
What you eat plays a role in how you feel. Start the day with breakfast, preferably one that includes eggs, and avoid processed and sugary carbohydrates that can trigger blood sugar changes that cause mood problems – and don’t forget to add more of these stress-busting foods to your diet for better health management.