We talk a lot about what foods help us stay the healthiest, but what about the happiest? We spoke with Registered Dietitian, Johane M. Filemon, MS, RDN, CLT, about all the foods and ingredients that can help boost our mental wellbeing.
Most nuts have mood-boosting properties, but walnuts top the list. They’re one of the foods with the highest levels of serotonin – known as the happy hormone – and help support brain health.
Nuts are also an excellent source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, especially if you follow a plant-based diet and don’t consume foods like salmon or other fatty fish. Omega-3s are an energy source that help keep our brains and nervous systems in good working order, and can also help fight depression.
Here are some other nuts with mood-boosting properties:
- Cashews: contain magnesium which helps provide oxygen to the brain
- Almonds: contain phenylalanine, a compound shown to help the brain produce dopamine and other neurotransmitters that boost mood
- Brazil nuts: high in selenium, which may improve mood by reducing inflammation (which can be heightened when someone has anxiety)
Not a fan of mushrooms? This may change your mind: research shows that Vitamin D found in mushrooms may be beneficial in reducing anxiety and depression.
Strawberries contain a high amount of vitamins C and A along with manganese. These nutrients are important in inhibiting deterioration of the brain and improving brain health.
4. Whole Grains
Our brains use carbohydrates to create energy, but simple carbs like breads and pastas cause our blood sugar to spike (and then crash). Complex carbs are found in foods like soy, quinoa, and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. By slowing glucose production, complex carbs in the form of whole grains provide a more consistent energy source to boost body and brain function.
Our favorite smoothie add-in and toast topping also happens to be chock full of vitamin K, folate, lutein, and potassium, which studies have linked to improved brain function and stroke prevention.
6. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens – such as spinach – provide our brains with folic acid, which has been shown to be a deterrent to both depression and insomnia.
Lycopene, a compound found in tomatoes and other red foods, has been shown to help with memory, attention, concentration, and logic, as well as fighting brain disease.
Turmeric is a golden, warming spice whose active ingredient, curcumin, helps reduce inflammation which can be triggered by anxiety or depression.
Like whole grains and other complex carbs, beans are rich in fiber, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. These small but mighty legumes also contain the amino acid tryptophan, (yep, like in turkey!). Tryptophan does more than just make us sleepy though; it produces serotonin which helps control our mood.
Green tea contains a naturally occuring amino acid called theanine, which may be effective in improving cognitive functions, like memory and thinking skills. Sipping a cup of hot tea in general is proven to help increase feelings of ease and relaxation.
Additionally, chamomile tea contains anti-inflammatory nutrients that may help reduce anxiety.
Adding these foods into your regular routine can help you feel happy both inside and out! Questions? Email us at [email protected] Be sure to follow along on Instagram @splendid.spoon! Ready to get nutritious plant-based meals delivered to your door? Get started today!