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Published on December 05, 2018

oatmeal with fruit and nuts

10 Ways to Improve Your Mood With Food

Your diet and the foods you eat can influence your brain structure, both chemically and physiologically, which can lead to altered moods and behavior. The tips below will help you to optimize your mood through diet.

No. 1: Find Balance Between Carbs and Protein

Serotonin, your mood regulator, is made in the brain from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in most high-protein foods (meat, seafood, dairy). So although a high-protein diet would provide the most tryptophan, it is not as well absorbed without an appropriate amount of carbohydrates from sources like whole grains, fruits and legumes. Very low carbohydrate diets can lead to fatigue and irritability.

No. 2: Start With a Well-Balanced Breakfast

Eating a breakfast with lean protein, heart healthy fats and whole-grain carbohydrates can improve your mood and memory as well as keep you calm but energized through the morning hours. Some great examples of well-balanced breakfasts include Greek yogurt and a whole grain muffin, steel-cut oats with nuts, or an egg and vegetable breakfast burrito in a whole wheat tortilla.

No. 3: Include Physical Activity

Exercise releases endorphins, which is a chemical responsible for reducing the perception of pain and triggering a positive feeling. Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week can also lead to healthy weight loss and improved self-esteem.

No. 4: Eat Foods Rich in B-vitamins

Thiamine (B1), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12) deficiencies are linked to a depressed mood and fatigue. Below are some good sources of each:

  • Thiamine: Whole grains, pork, potatoes and nuts
  • Folate: Dark, leafy green vegetables, organ meats, fruit and enriched cereals
  • Cobalamin: Beef, pork, poultry, dairy products and enriched cereals

No. 5: Ensure Enough Vitamin D

Adequate vitamin D can increase serotonin in the brain. Increased serotonin levels are linked to a good mood. Although the sun is our best source, fortified milk and fortified cereals can provide some.

No. 6: Add Your Iron

Iron deficiency anemia is a common problem, and can lead to a depressed mood, lethargy and problems with attention. It is most commonly found in women, children and vegetarians. Good food sources of iron include liver; vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, and parsley; seafood; iron-fortified grains; nuts; meat and dried fruits.

No. 7: Select Selenium-Rich Foods

Several studies have shown an association between low selenium intakes and a depressed mood. Good food sources of selenium include seafood, nuts and seeds, lean meats, whole grains, beans/legumes, and low-fat dairy products. Selenium can be toxic at high levels, so caution is needed if taking supplement forms.

No. 8: Include More Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids may help protect against depression. Include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or herring two to three times per week. Walnuts and flaxseed also provide some omega-3 fatty acids.

No. 9: Be Careful with Caffeine

Although caffeine is an effective stimulant, improving alertness, vigilance and reaction time, in sensitive people it can exacerbate depression.

No. 10: Indulge Every Once in a While!

Chocolate can have a noticeable impact on mood, typically making you happier and reducing tension, and if you make it dark chocolate you will be getting some heart protective and anti-inflammatory flavanols. It is also important to include your favorite foods, even if they are higher in calories, every once in a while as they can also trigger positive emotions.

Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, is a registered dietitian at Avera Heart Hospital. Get more insight on nutrition and health.

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