Food is often described with how it can benefit your body – think “heart healthy” or “builds strong bones.” But did you know certain foods can benefit your mood and brain health?
Research has shown eating a diet rich in whole foods and plants and low in processed carbohydrates and added sugar is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Of course, this is the same pattern of eating that’s best for general health and wellness too! However, there are specific foods that are rich in nutrients used in large amounts by the brain. I like to call these foods Good Mood Food!
Here’s a look at my top five foods you should be eating more frequently for optimal brain health and functioning:
Fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, are a rich source of omega 3 fat. This type of fat has powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Studies show people with depression have significantly lower levels of omega 3 fats in their blood. Although more research is certainly needed, one small, but interesting study showed fish oil may be as effective as antidepressants.
Enjoy it in: Enjoy a seared wild salmon filet over our Hawaiian Un-Fried Rice. Here’s the recipe.
Black beans are a rich source of anthocyanins, a phytochemical that may help improve cognitive function. They are also a fiber rich carbohydrate, which helps keep blood sugar steady, preventing hanger and other low blood sugar related mood swings.
Along with collards, kale is the most nutrient dense vegetable. One cup of cooked kale contains almost 100% daily needs for vitamin A. The hippocampus area of the brain is loaded with receptors for vitamin A and it’s thought to play a role in the production of new brain cells. It’s also a good source of magnesium, a nutrient where deficiency has been linked to anxiety and depression.
That’s right! Chocolate has been shown to improve mood by reducing stress hormones, like cortisol. Stick with dark chocolate or cocoa powder, which has little/no added sugar, unlike milk chocolate.
Enjoy it in: this date, cinnamon, and dark chocolate granola recipe.
Did you know many scientists are referring to the gut as “the second brain”? That’s because the gut, and specifically the bacteria it contains, play a vital role in brain health and mood. Gut bacteria manufactures 95% of the body’s serotonin, the happy hormone. The gut is also home to the second largest concentration of neurons in the body, the brain being the first.
Which foods improve you mood? Share your favorites in the comments below and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more nutritious tips and giveaways!