Mood Boosting Foods
If you’re like many people in the world these days, stress and anxiety plague you at one point or another. My battle with anxiety has been ongoing ever since I was in the third grade. Who knows if it is a result of losing my mom (as a result of divorce) at a very young age and not having her in my life, or if my father was ill equipped to teach me how to cope appropriately…or if it’s truly a chemical/biological issue, I have had to work throughout my entire life to battle anxiety.
I go through stages in which I’m fine, and then other times when I need help, both via medication, as well as maintaining a very healthy diet. I have found that the foods I eat, (or don’t eat), as well as getting the proper vitamins have a serious impact on my mood and stress levels. There are also plenty of activities to pair with eating well that will help your anxiety. While some may still need to seek counseling to help them through tough times, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will most certainly help you along!
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
In order to function properly, our brains need omega 3’s. You can find this brain boosting nutrient in foods such as fatty fish (salmon is a great option), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. These are all great mood boosting foods that you’ll want to add to your diet.
My favorite method for getting my probiotics is kefir. Our local grocery store sells a ton of different flavors! Other methods for getting your gut healthy probiotics are: yogurt (but watch out for high amounts of sugar), kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Why do probiotics help? The types of bacteria in our guts influence anxiety. There is a very strong gut/brain connection. When the gut is healthy, you can bet that the brain will be healthy as well.
3. Antioxidant Rich Foods
It’s no wonder that we learned as children that fruits and vegetables are among the most important foods we need to consume. They contain high amounts of fiber, water, and tons of vitamins. In addition, the vast amount of fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants. Carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, kale, citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, almonds, avocados, and Brussels sprouts are all fantastic options. In addition, grass fed beef, turkey, chicken, and eggs, which all have the mineral selenium, are great options to boost your mood and combat anxiety. Why are antioxidants so helpful? They combat free radicals, which contribute to stress and anxiety.
Magnesium is a calming mineral, and should always be included in your mood boosting foods list, and is known to induce feelings of relaxation. Eggs are a great method for getting magnesium, as well as greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard. Legumes, nuts, and seeds are also great sources.
You know that feeling you get after eating Thanksgiving dinner? You can thank turkey for being one of the best mood boosting foods! Other foods that contain tryptophan are other meats, nuts, beans, seeds, and eggs. Tryptophan, as well as protein, are important for the brain so it produces dopamine and serotonin.
6. B Vitamins
B vitamin deficiencies have been linked to anxiety disorders. Adding foods to your diet such as beef, avocados, and almonds can help raise your B levels and ward off feelings of anxiety. Vitamin B6 helps raise serotonin in the brain. In addition, choline, which is related to the B vitamins, can help as well. You can find B vitamins from foods such as: whole grains (such as brown rice), meats (red meat, poultry, fish), eggs and dairy, legumes, seeds and nuts, dark, leafy vegetables, and fruits (such as citrus fruits, bananas, and avocados).
Are you seeing a connection within that list of mood boosting foods? Many of them have more than one required nutrient in order to keep us healthy. In addition, if you take a peek at the current food pyramid, the main source of nutrition we as humans require is through plant-based foods. Whether you choose to include meats, or animal products in your diet or not is purely a personal decision. It is highly important that our bodies get the nourishment they need, not just for our physical health and well-being, but for our mental and emotional well-being. A great many ailments can be overcome simply by having a balanced diet.
Add Physical Activity and Hobbies
In general, we hear that staying healthy is 80% diet, 20% physical activity. Remember that, while your body needs nutritious food to stay healthy, you also need to engage in some type of daily, physical activity. When we exercise, we release endorphins, which is a chemical that fights stress within our bodies. In addition, when you start exercising on a regular basis, the feeling we get can be just as addictive as nicotine…but, exercise is good for you!
What type of activity should you choose? Well, anything that gets your heart rate up, and preferably outside in the sun. Yes, even during the cold months. Take a 20 minute walk every day, go ice skating, roller skating, biking, running, or get out to play with the kids, or dogs. The sky really is the limit, though. My favorite activity during the winter is yoga, and during the warm months, it’s horseback riding.
As a person who has experienced almost a lifetime of anxiety, I can say from experience that when we take care of our physical health, we can see a dramatic change in our mental and emotional health. For some, a visit to the doctor may be necessary, but always remember that eating properly, and getting daily exercise can help you to feel a great deal better!