Feeling down? Eat these foods to boost your mood

Do you, like me, ever look back longingly to when you were young, when weekends were for doing nothing, and the summer vacation stretched before you like an empty page just waiting to be filled with sunshine-filled, happy memories? There is no denying that being an adult in the modern world is an intense, exhausting business, and the unrelenting pressure can leave even the happiest person feeling blue. There’s a fix for that, though: There are several delicious foods that we should all be adding to our diets to improve our overall health, and most importantly, provide the pick-me-up we are all so desperately in need of.

Chocolate: There are very few people who would need a lot of arm-twisting before agreeing to add more chocolate to their diets. It just tastes so good, it’s hard to believe it’s actually also a real health boon, but studies have shown that eating more dark chocolate reduces the stress hormone cortisol and lowers blood pressure. A study by the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland found that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced stress hormones in test subjects who had been feeling very stressed. Eating more than that could be counter-productive though, as you might find yourself gaining unwanted pounds.

Carbohydrates: Though trendy diets would have you believe otherwise, eating the right type of whole grain carbs will not make you fat, and cutting them out of your diet could lead to unnecessary anxiety and depression. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who followed a very low-carb diet for a year ended up with more anger, depression and anxiety than those who followed a more balanced diet. This is likely because carbohydrates help the body produce serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical. So, add a side of whole grain brown rice to your meal to boost your mood naturally.

Fresh fruit and veg: A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that of the 3,500 men and women studied, those who reported the highest intake of whole foods like fruit and veggies had the lowest incidence of depression. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables lower the risk of depression, and eating some veggies, especially the dark leafy green ones like kale and spinach, has a positive effect on the neurotransmitters that control mood. Bananas are an especially good choice because they contain very high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body utilizes in the production of serotonin.

Fish: While fish might not be everybody’s first choice when selecting what to put on their family’s dinner plates, it really should be – especially fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna – because they are packed with omega-3s, the essential fatty acids that increase the chemicals dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Our bodies cannot produce omega-3s, so they have to be supplemented through the foods we eat.

Coconut: Like many other people, just the smell of coconut is enough to transport me to a tropical island vacation in my mind. Studies have found that the scent of coconut calms people, reducing stress, slowing heart rate and stabilizing blood pressure. So, add some coconut to your breakfast cereal or other food, and make sure to take a good sniff of it before you eat!

Avocado: If you want to boost your Omega-3 intake even more, look no further than the humble avocado. Avocados also contain more folic acid than any other fruit, and decrease levels of an amino acid known to cause anxiety and depression.

Water: A study out of the University of Connecticut found that significant changes take place in the body as a result of even mild dehydration, including fatigue, the inability to focus well, headaches, overall tension and anxiety. It is therefore really important to ensure you drink enough clean, filtered water throughout the day to maintain clarity, focus and a good mood.

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