These mood-boosting foods do double duty by balancing your gut health and your emotions.
What we put into our bodies directly effects how we feel (and we’re not just talking about the guilt that comes from eating a whole box of Oreos). There are certain nutrients that greatly impact our emotions because they impact the our gut flora. “Gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system, which is why imbalances have been linked to everything from depression to type 1 diabetes,” explains Kirkland Shave of Mountain Trek, a luxury health and fitness retreat. To restore your gut flora it’s crucial to eat a balanced diet full of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato and yucca) and fermented foods like kefir, yogurt and sauerkraut.
For which mood-boosting foods we should be eating regularly, we turned to Suja Health & Wellness Expert and author of 21 Days to Resilience, Zelana Montminy, Psy.D. Here are 6 of her favorite mood-boosting foods, all of which will have a positive effect on your gut health as well.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are loaded with alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). This is good news for squirrels and other nut lovers, since research has shown people with a significant amount of ALA in their diets were less likely to be depressed, while low ALA levels can cause inflammation, which has been linked to decreased dopamine and serotonin levels, both of which help us feel good.
Probiotics have been shown to help us deal with stress more effectively because our gut communicates with our brain (through our vagus nerve). The theory is that good bacteria and live cultures send messages to the brain to calm down. Load up on probiotic-rich cultured and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and yes kimchi.
A win-win all around, because who doesn’t love chocolate? Apart from its taste bud appeal, dark chocolate is loaded with polyphenols that have been shown to boost mood and increase feelings of contentment. Recent research has also found that the cocoa in dark chocolate is fermented by good bacteria living in your gut, turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds. Studies show that a few ounces of dark chocolate a day is all you need to feel its effects.
Refined carbs and sugar filled processed foods are quickly digested which creates the sudden energy spikes and those sudden falls too which make you feel tired and irritable. Help stabilize blood sugar levels to prevent those ups and downs by eating fiber-rich foods like oatmeal.
Tomatoes are full of an antioxidant called lycopene that fights inflammation. There’s a higher concentration in the skin, so you’ll get more eating cherry tomatoes than a regular-size one. Organic varieties have been shown to contain even more lycopene than conventional, so choose pesticide free when you can.
These green stems are loaded with tryptophan, which helps create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood and is partly responsible for our feelings of happiness. Asparagus is one of the top plant-based sources. It’s also chock full of folate, a nutrient which can fight depression.
Want to know more about the relationship between food and feelings? Read on: