All Women's Talk

9 Ways to Improve Your Mood with Food ...

By Heather

As someone who has struggled with depression since she was 13 years old, I have spent half my adult life learning how to improve your mood with food. I once made the mistake of becoming desperate enough to try medication, and while that may work for some people, I personally did not believe in the idea behind it. I also made the mistake of eating junk foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats and processed carbs to lift my mood. I not only gained weight, but felt worse mentally in the process. I knew there had to be an easier, more natural and healthy way. I found great relief through researching endless amounts of information on how to improve your mood with food. What I learned was that certain foods and nutrients can improve and/or affect our mood, and even cure depression. Three different points of grief in my life have brought on a full-fledged bout of depression that made me numb to almost everything. Each time, I turned to healing myself through yoga and eating certain foods to balance my hormones, reset my emotions and center me. Food is an incredibly powerful medicine that can either help us or poison us. Certain foods, even healthy ones, may not work the best with your body to serve you well emotionally or physically. This makes paying close attention to all of your food choices very important. Check out these 9 ways to improve your mood with food and enjoy the delicious benefits of beating the blues.

1 Leafy Greens

Leafy GreensIf you’re trying to find out how to improve your mood with food, start with the produce section first at your supermarket. Leafy greens, especially Swiss chard, romaine, kale and spinach, are top leafy greens for beating the blues. They have incredibly high amounts of magnesium, Vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, fiber, and even omega 3 fatty acids that improve mood function and balance the entire body and mind. Leafy greens have a grounding effect on the body and are easy to enjoy in green smoothies to get the largest amounts in a delicious way. I also love steaming leafy greens over baked eggs and even stirring them into soup. I recommend trying these however you can. Once you feel the difference of greens, you’ll want more and more of them. I used to hate vegetables until I began to seek out remedies for depression. Now, they make up the majority of my purchases.

2 Oily Fish

Though vegans and some vegetarians can’t enjoy fish, those of us who can will find a dramatic relief through eating fish to beat depression. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, magnesium and easy to digest protein, this food is one of the best foods for depression out there. While fish oil pills have similar effects, fish is the most potent and natural form of these nutrients. Be sure to buy fish from quality sources and with a seal of approval on the back from the Marine Stewardship Council, which ensures you are getting the best fish out there void of toxins. My personal choices for the highest amount of omega 3 fatty acids are salmon, albacore tuna, halibut and trout.

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3 Chia Seeds

So what if you’re vegan or vegetarian, or you just don’t like fish? Enter chia seeds! Chia seeds are actually one of my favorite foods and certainly not for their taste, since they are tasteless. I don’t eat fish very often though I do enjoy it, so on a daily basis, I depend on the same nutrients as fish in a much more compassionate, fun, and economical way by eating chia seeds in many of my foods each day. Chia seeds are the most powerful source per ounce of omega 3 fatty acids, which are directly linked to beating depression. They are also great sources of energizing nutrients such as iron, B vitamins, magnesium, calcium and zinc. In fact, I have noticed my hair, skin and nails looking absolutely amazing since adding these seeds into my diet. I usually consume about 4 tbsp. per day of chia seeds and eat them in everything from green smoothies, to homemade sauces, puddings and dressings. I also love making raw treats with chia seeds for a quick energy boost on the go. The possibilities are endless with chia seeds. Pick some up at your store and try them in whatever you want, such as smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods and yogurt, which are all popular ways to use them.

4 Herbs and Spices

Herbs and SpicesYou may be surprised to know that one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants and mood-boosting nutrients is in your spice cabinet. Certain spices such as oregano, mint, basil, sage, cilantro, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and nutmeg contain compounds so powerful that you only need 1 tsp. of them a day to increase serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is critical to beating depression and increasing a good mood. I use various herbs and spices in smoothies, baked goods, as a seasoning in soups, sprinkled onto salads, or added to homemade dressings. Get creative and start shaking these spices away to boost flavor and your mood! If you try one concoction that doesn't work right away, don't give up. Experimentation is half the fun and you might come up with a delightful new recipe in the process. If you do, please share!

5 Avocados

AvocadosOne of my top favorite foods for boosting my mood are avocados. In fact, I usually eat one every single day, usually with lunch. Avocados are unique because they include B6 and folic acid in a combination that makes them extremely powerful for taming anxiety, relieving stress, inflammation, and increasing serotonin production in the brain. Their fats also play a critical role in this process as they are not only heart-healthy fats, but also boost nutrient uptake of the B6 and folic acid from avocados. This helps your body absorb these nutrients more efficiently and faster. I love avocados chopped on salads, thrown into smoothies, made into dips and dressings and even into raw pudding mixed with a little cacao and stevia. Don’t fear the fats in avocados. They are crucial to depression prevention and will not lead to weight gain with an overall balanced diet.

6 Coconut Oil

I honestly can not get enough of this fat to beat depression. This food was the one food (and coconut in general) that convinced me fearing fat was not only unnecessary, but foolish in my war against beating depression. This one food has helped me mentally and physically in more ways than I could have imagined. Research from many sources find that coconut oil’s rich MCT fats are used immediately by the body and brain to increase energy, aid in detoxification of the liver, fuel the brain’s production of serotonin, and even improve metabolism. I eat around 3 tbsp. per day of this oil and have never felt better in my life. I also have not gained any weight for those of you concerned about weight gain with fatty foods. Raw coconut oil is the quickest way to enjoy the benefits of coconuts. I eat coconuts in all forms and like to eat them raw for the best taste and nutrient uptake. If you’re new to coconut oil, or don’t like coconut, I suggest using the oil over the butters, creams and shredded coconut, which taste more powerful than the oil. The oil’s taste is easily masked when thrown into a smoothie or even stirred into tea and coffee. I personally could eat it off the spoon, but didn't always care for it. I started using it in smoothies to get the nutrients, and I was hooked by the benefits. Coconut oil can be a little detoxifying at first, so if you find yourself with a tummy ache, it's just your body ridding itself of toxins. In a couple days, you will digest it perfectly and feel much better. Many people don't have such symptoms, but I did, along with a few others I know, who ate highly processed or dairy-rich diets. Most likely you’ll notice a better mood extremely fast with coconut oil use, along with better skin, improved digestion and healthier hair. The biggest benefit I have found beyond mood, is I virtually crave NO sugar now. For someone who is addicted to sweets, this has perhaps amazed me the most. I am satisfied all day with the use of this oil and by eating meals regularly. While I cannot officially make any health claims for this food, I can tell you the benefits of coconut oil are usually found in almost everyone who uses it in my experience and through documented research.

7 Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower SeedsThe tiny underrated sunflower seeds have big benefits for beating the blues, so listen up! Sunflower seeds are one of the top plant sources for Vitamin E and magnesium, which makes them great for fighting depression. They also even have a little protein in them too. Protein is great for fighting depression and these seeds have a winning combination of protein, fiber, healthy fats and various minerals. Enjoy them in your yogurt, smoothies, on salads, on hot oatmeal or other cereals, or made into raw treats like raw energy bars and bites. Sunflower seeds contain the natural antidepressant phenylalanine, an amino acid the body turns into norepinephrine.

8 Spirulina

SpirulinaDid you know this deep green seaweed is actually the highest source of protein per serving of all foods? Just one tablespoon includes 4 grams of protein, 70% of daily Vitamin B 12 intake and 320% of your Vitamin A intake. It also is a rich source of a fatty acid known as GLA, which is critical for improving mood function in the brain. Spirulina is incredibly strong in taste , so I definitely recommend starting with a teaspoon first and increasing the amount until you reach 3 tbsp. per day per serving. I like to add mine to my morning smoothie and sweeten it with stevia to mask the taste. I can tell immediate effects on my mood after consuming spirulina. I’ve also made raw energy bites with the powder, which can be bought online, and raw energy bites are also a convenient and fun way to get this powerful seaweed into my daily diet. Don’t let the color alarm you either. The more pungent and colorful plants are, the higher their nutrients in most cases.

9 Maca

MacaThough maca root is not available as a whole food anywhere in the United States, it is conveniently sold as a powder and even in supplement form. My personal favorite brand is Navitas Naturals raw maca powder. I find it extremely efficient and effective for balancing my hormones and energy levels. Maca helps you reach that medium level between too much energy, which can lead to anxiety, to the opposite end of the spectrum of being incredibly tired and fatigued. For this reason, it is known as an adapotgen. An adaptogen is any substance that helps the body reach middle ground, stabilizing it, and giving it sustained energy without the need for stimulants such as caffeine. Maca is also a powerful medicine for the adrenal glands. When our adrenal glands are stressed from a poor diet, too much caffeine, high levels of stress, too much exercise, or lack of sleep, all bodily functions suffer. Along with terrible fatigue, one of the first symptoms you’ll notice from adrenal fatigue is a bad mood. Maca nourishes the adrenal glands and contains amino acids that nourish all parts of the body. I use 1-2 tbsp. raw maca root per day in smoothies, raw energy bars and protein shakes, but you can also use them in oatmeal, yogurt and even baked goods.

By eating these 9 foods, I have found the best ways of how to improve your mood with food. Though this list isn't exclusive, all of these foods are popular remedies for beating a bad mood, and are ones that worked extremely well for me. Honestly, I cannot tell you enough how many benefits I've reaped from each of these foods. I no longer suffer depression and constant fatigue when I eat these foods, get 8 hours sleep and include a little exercise each day. These foods help your system create balance, energy and calm all at the same time. I highly recommend each of them if you’re new to these foods or looking for a natural approach to improving your mood. Do you have any mood-boosting foods you enjoy on a regular basis? Share!

Sources:
msc.org
organicgardening.com
mindbodygreen.com
moodcure.com

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