Okay, I get it: blueberries supposedly burn stomach fat; but do they cure ravenous rage when I am down in the dumps and would rather a serotonin boost from my friends Ben and Jerry? What is “wellness” without feeling well? Why is the focus of wellness so drastically based on weight versus our mental health?
I am here to provide a list of mood-boosting foods and ingredients -- where the added bonus has more to do with your mind and not the way your body looks. Remember that most things in life are not a one-size-fits-all, and that ultimately mental health is convoluted and best tended to by therapists and the like. With that being said, there are foods that want to try helping you out!
1. Caffeine is linked to aiding depressive symptoms
Some research suggests a correlation between regular coffee drinkers being less likely to suffer from symptoms of depression. Whether this has to do with productivity levels or the caffeine itself is unknown. In 2016, a study done on nearly 350,000 people suggested that caffeine intake improved both depressive symptoms, alertness, and attention. Most research also concludes that finding the right balance of caffeine depends on each individual, meaning that too much or too little can have adverse effects.1 With that being said, consuming caffeine via caffeine pills, coffee, or whatever you prefer on some occasions may lead to more productivity plus a mood boost!
2. Vitamin D and feeling like sunshine
Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because its production in your skin is dependent on sunlight. The good news is, even if you live somewhere that reduces your exposure to the sun, you can take vitamin D supplements, eat foods rich in vitamin D, or even purchase a vitamin D lamp (also called “Sun/Therapy” lamps). Research shows vitamin D plays “an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.” Foods with vitamin D include fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon), orange juice, soy milk, cheese, and egg yolks, so make sure you pick up some of these items on your next grocery run.
3. Dark Chocolate for our sweet tooth
Coming from a sugar obsessed person who much prefers milk chocolate to dark chocolate, I do get excited about dark chocolate covered frozen banana slices. Seriously -- try them! Dark chocolate has proven time and time again that it will faithfully help us through our emotional pain (while also playing an important role in cognitive function and skincare).2 A study assessing over 13,000 adults found that those who ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods were 70% less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who did not eat any dark chocolate during that time.3 This is really all the motivation I need to pay See’s Candies a visit.
4. Speaking of Bananas…
Bananas contain several “mood-boosting” carbs as well as vitamin B6 which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin. This process also helps with insomnia, and unhealthy sleeping habits are heavily linked to mental health problems.4 It sounds like while an apple a day keeps the doctor away… a banana a day can help keep the sad thoughts at bay!
5. Green Tea for anxiety
An article published by Nature.com illustrates while the calming effects of tea, in general, are well-known, green tea specifically can lower the risk of not only symptoms of depression but also dementia.5 In a small study of 21 tests published in 2017, evidence suggested green tea influences the reduction of anxiety, plays a beneficial role in memory and attention, and aids in memory. The study owes much of this outcome to the ingredients caffeine and I-theanine, both of which are found in green tea.6 The next time you are looking for a midday pick-me-up to help you get over your longest hour of the day, consider sipping some green tea for a lovely blend of motivation and calm.
6. Oats prove slow and steady wins the race
While some foods provide a rush of energy “that dips quickly, leaving you more irritable,” oats slowly release energy into the bloodstream, stabilizing both blood sugar and mood. This happens because of their low glycaemic index (GI), and because oats contain another mood-boosting mineral called selenium.7 Instead of using milk for your morning coffee, swap it out with creamy oat milk instead and see if that mood-boosting combo does what it claims!
Ultimately, while food can prove beneficial in many facets of our lives including mood, overall wellness is intricate and personal to each individual. While it is possible to experience some of the previous benefits from the foods and ingredients listed above (and so many more), always remember that mental health is best managed with the help of a professional.