April is stress awareness month. Dealing with stress can be challenging at times. Eating candy can sometimes bring instant gratification, but it can also cause negative effects such as a sugar spill or irritability. Are there certain foods that can improve your mood or reduce stress?
Research has shown that omega-3s can play a role in brain function and that a lack of omega-3s can be linked to mental health problems. Some research has shown that consuming more omega-3 fats in food can reduce symptoms of depression. To increase your omega-3 fatty acid consumption, add the following foods to your diet: salmon, mackerel, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, or a fish oil additive. It’s always best to consult your doctor if you have any questions about adding more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
Although recognized primarily for their digestive benefits, probiotics can also play a role in boosting mood and general wellbeing. Research has shown that having a healthy bowel is important in maintaining a healthy mood. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, pickles, and apple cider vinegar.
Whole grains are an important source of B vitamins, which are vital to brain health and function. B vitamins that regulate mood are vitamin B1 (thiamine), which is important for converting glucose into energy. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which is needed for learning and memory; Vitamin B6, which helps convert tryptophan to serotonin; and last but not least, vitamin B12, which is involved in the production of serotonin and dopamine and is also known as the “happy” or “feel good” chemicals in the brain. Whole grain products include brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, wild rice, and 100% whole grain bread, to name a few.
Charging up green leafy vegetables can improve your mood. Leafy green vegetables are loaded with another B vitamin known as folic acid. Research has shown a link between low folate levels and symptoms of depression. Eat dark green leafy vegetables when you feel a little blue.
Moderate caffeine consumption can also affect your mood. If I just smell coffee in the morning, my day will be brighter. Caffeine has been shown to release the “feel good” chemical dopamine in the brain. However, moderation is the key to caffeine; Overconsumption can have adverse effects, including irritability and insomnia. Moderate consumption would include up to 300 mg daily for most healthy adults.
After all, the sun vitamin known as vitamin D is naturally made in the body when it is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Vitamin D deficiency can be a risk factor for depression in older adults. Vitamin D is important in maintaining healthy levels of serotonin in the brain to influence mood. Most people in the Midwest are vitamin D deficient in the colder months when the sun is further from Earth. Supplementation may be required; Contact your doctor if you have any concerns. Foods rich in vitamin D include canned salmon with bones, cheese, egg yolks, and foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk or orange juice.
Small changes in your diet can make big differences in mood, anxiety, and even stress. Always check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. Not only can these foods improve your mood, but many of them can benefit your overall health.
The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a doctor for individual advice.