If you want to improve your mood in the New Year, make the right food choices! The connection between food and mood is a real thing. In fact it's an exciting and emerging field of study. So read on for the good foods for a good mood and make smart nutritional choices that will lift your spirits in the year ahead.
Mental Health, Not Just Physical Health
In the New Year we focus on improving our physical health with more exercise or losing weight, but what about our mental health? For years, the medical field did not acknowledge the connection between food and mood. Now, interest in the relationship between nutrition and mental health is gaining traction. Food and mood is a real thing and what you eat can make a difference.
Mood and Food: The Gut-Brain Connection
Quality of sleep, exposure to sunlight, your environment, stress levels, even nutrition influence your mood. Food affects your mood because of something called the gut-brain connection. Your gut and brain connect through the nerves in your nervous system, the biggest one being the vagus nerve. Do you ever get butterflies in your stomach? Yep, it's a real thing because of this amazing gut-brain connection. So it's understandable that good food and good mood go together. Like a fancy sports car, your brain functions best on premium fuel.
The Right Kinds of Foods
A 2020 study reported that an anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style diet is associated with better brain health and therefore better moods. That is a diet full of colorful whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and legumes, healthy whole unprocessed grains, plus quality fats and lean proteins. These healthy food choices also keep blood sugar stable which stabilizes your mood.
Fiber Supports a Good Mood
A big factor is the fiber in many of these foods. Fiber (prebiotic), is the preferred fuel for the trillions of organisms (probiotics) that live in your gut microbiome. They produce something called serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for good sleep, regulating appetite, mood, and pain. So there you have it. The "why it works" part of the good food for a good mood. So here's the good foods for a good mood list! It is not comprehensive but will give you a great start.
The Good Foods For a Good Mood List
- Wild fatty fish - like salmon and black cod, full of omega-3 fats
- Dark chocolate - 75% and higher
- Fermented foods - sauerkraut, kombucha, and plain yogurt with active cultures
- Bananas - choose the greenish ones
- Oats - provide fiber to stabilize blood sugar, boost mood
- Berries - especially the dark blue and purple ones
- Seeds - pumpkin, sesame, flaxseed, chia, and sunflower
- Nuts - walnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil, pine nuts
- Beans and legumes - canned and dried beans, lentils, peanuts
- Purple and orange sweet potatoes
- Organic poultry and grass-fed beef - more quality protein
- Organic eggs - more quality protein
- Spinach - green is good
- Healthy fats - avocados, olive oil, avocado and coconut oil
- Whole gluten-free grains - millet, quinoa, buckwheat (oats too)
- Coffee - both regular and decaf
- Herbs and spices - rosemary, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and sage
A Good Foods and Mood Breakfast
Want a healthy breakfast that includes a lot of these foods? Try overnight oat with chia seeds. Soak rolled oats with chia seeds overnight in almond milk. Add a little vanilla and some cinnamon. In the morning, top with walnuts, and blueberries (fresh or frozen, thawed). If you don't like cold morning foods, I pop mine in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it up a bit, then enjoy. You could add a little greenish banana and for more protein, scramble an egg on the side, or eat a hard boiled one.
Recipe Ideas to Incorporate These Foods
- Black and white sesame salmon
- Colorful vegan chili
- How to hard boil eggs (good snack)
- Bittersweet chocolate pudding
- Green tea and avocado smoothie
- How to toast pumpkin seeds (good snack)
- Mediterranean quinoa and lentil salad
- Blueberry brain smoothie
Bad Foods that Bust Your Mood
When your mood dips, resist the temptation to reach for sugary foods and refined carbs, artificially sweetened foods and things like ice cream, cookies and processed carbs. And say no to soda. Reach for the good stuff instead!
And last tip, staying hydrated is critical for all of you and especially your brain. Drink your water!