Foods have a marked impact on our moods, but too many times when we’re struggling to get through the day, we reach for the very snacks that only bring us down: sweets, refined carbohydrates and other processed foods.
When you eat unhealthy junk foods, you set in motion a silent, chronic inflammation that wreaks havoc on your body. Not only does that affect your physical health, but it also impacts your overall mood.
While unhealthy foods can promote a negative outlook, the good news is that healthier options can also produce a positive one.
By adding these nine mood-boosting foods into your diet, you'll reduce low-level inflammation throughout your body, and help transform a down day into a happy one:
Studies show that yogurt can increase levels of serotonin, the "feel-good" neurotransmitter, making it a tasty way to help fight depression.
Plus, cultured and fermented foods promote good gut health. That's critical since the gut is where most of the body’s serotonin is found.
Other fermented foods to add to your shopping list: kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchee. Besides boosting your mood, they’ll also add beneficial bacteria that protect the lining of the gut and prevent inflammation throughout the body.
This summer staple is a particularly rich source of folic acid, a natural mood booster. The high levels of folate in asparagus also help to alleviate symptoms of mild depression, like lack of energy and foggy thinking. For a happy snack, try dipping spears in Greek yogurt or sour cream, which are dense in calming calcium.
4. Dark, leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens — think spinach, kale or collard greens — are high in mood-boosting magnesium, which creates a feeling of calm and plays a large role in the development of serotonin. Add a kale or spinach salad to your daily diet to help beat stress and depression.
5. Roasted cherry tomatoes
Hiding in the colorful skin of tomatoes is the phytonutrient lycopene, which helps prevent inflammatory compounds linked to depression. Why cherry tomatoes? Since they're smaller in size, you’ll eat more of that skin that packs a powerful anti-inflammatory punch. You'll also want to roast them: studies have shown that cooking tomatoes first can actually up the total amount of lycopene your body receives.
6. Wild salmon
Omega-3 fat offers a powerful protection against depression, and salmon is stuffed with it. These fats also help to reverse low-level inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. Though the brain is rich in omega-3 fats, the body can’t make its own, so getting this fat from the food you eat is essential.
7. Dark chocolate
8. Green tea
Chickpeas are brimming with the nutrients tryptophan, folate and vitamin B6 — all of which help boost mood and reduce inflammation. For a delicious, happy hummus tip, use chickpeas and tahini, which is high in stress-reducing magnesium.
Lori Shemek, Ph.D. is a leading fat cell researcher and recognized authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health. Dr. Shemek is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and Certified Life Coach, and the creator and owner of DLSHealth Works, which helps men and women conquer their issues with weight and self-esteem. She is the nutrition expert for the Dallas Healthy Aging Institute and the NFL Houston Texans cheerleaders. She is the author of How to Fight Fatflammation: A Revolutionary 3-Week Program to Shrink the Body’s Fat Cells for Quick and Lasting Weight Loss (HarperOne; April 28, 2015).