Improve your Mood with Food
May 2, 2019
While the factors that affect mental health can be complex and diverse, research shows that following a healthy, well balanced diet can increase cognitive function and decrease the risk for depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Pair the following tips with a nutrient dense diet to improve your mood with food.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
This heart healthy fat is important for the maintenance of healthy brain function and has been tied to improving depressive symptoms. Good sources include fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines), flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.
As research around the microbiome and gut health continues to emerge, we’re discovering a link between the GI system and brain, called the gut-brain axis. Having favorable gut microbiota has been associated with improved mood regulation and decreased depression. Aim to include both probiotic foods (yogurt with live cultures, kefir, sauerkraut/fermented vegetables, and kombucha tea) which contain healthy desirable bacteria, as well as prebiotic foods (banana, onion, garlic, artichoke, and asparagus) which help feed the good bacteria and keep them alive and thriving.
Adequate vitamin D is important for mood regulation and critical thinking. Low levels have been linked to feelings of depression, especially seasonal depression during the winter months. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, dairy, eggs, and fortified foods, but the best way to ensure adequate vitamin D is experiencing sun exposure. Just 5-30 minutes a few times each week generally produces enough vitamin D for most individuals. If you’re feeling down, make an effort to get outside!
Being dehydrated can lead to a feeling of sleepiness, low energy level, inability to concentrate and brain fog. Fluid recommendations vary depending on body size, activity level, and environmental conditions, but aiming for around 64oz is a good starting point.
While alcohol encompasses both stimulating and sedative effects, it is ultimately classified as a depressant and can be known to exacerbate a depressed state. If you’re struggling with a mood disorder, it might be wise to skip the adult beverage. If you do decide to drink, make sure to limit intake by practicing moderation, defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.