If wintertime has you down and you’re feeling a bit blue during these cold and wintery days, you will be happy to know that eating a few of the right foods may turn that frown into a smile! Whole foods contain vital nutrients that provide both physical and emotional benefits and are the best foods to eat. Try some of the following “happy food” to help boost your mood and keep you healthy and active for life!
- Leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, bok choy, legumes, sunflower seeds, oranges, melons, beets, kale and fortified whole grains
WHY? These foods are rich in folate, also known as folic acid, which is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for cell division, DNA synthesis, and healthy blood cell production. Recent studies have found a link between depression and low levels of folate. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for men and women is 400 micrograms and 600 micrograms for pregnant women. A cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the RDA of folic acid. Plus, the fiber and protein will satisfy you longer, stabilize blood sugar, and also promote a better mood.
- Bananas, chicken breast, garlic, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, sunflower seeds, broccoli, red bell peppers, watermelon, avocados, and potatoes
WHY? Vitamin B6 is the common denominator in these foods. This vitamin plays a role in red blood cell metabolism, protein metabolism, and synthesis of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. It also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and increases the amount of oxygen carried to your tissues. Low levels can lead to an increase of homocysteine, anemia, headaches, and depression. The RDA for adults from age 19 to 50 is 1.3 mg/day and approximately 1.6 mg for individuals over 50. Grab some sunflower seeds or a banana when you feel the blues coming on!
- Fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring, flaxseeds, walnuts, and algae
WHY? Recent studies show a correlation between intake of omega-3 fatty acids and depression. DHA omega-3 essential fatty acid maintains healthy brain function and is vital for fetal brain and eye development. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that depression was significantly improved in clients with bipolar disorders after taking three daily fish capsules for eight weeks. Eat the oily fish listed above — a 3-ounce serving of salmon contains between 1.1 – 1.9 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementing with high quality fish oil capsules may be a better alternative if you don’t consume fish or if it is difficult for you to find salmon from fresh water sources. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 can be found in flaxseeds, walnuts, and algae. Toss some walnuts into a cup of low fat unsweetened Greek yogurt and add a pinch or two of stevia to sweeten it up for a great mood lifter!
- Whole grains, fruits, vegetables
WHY? Whole grains, fruits, and veggies are considered complex carbs because they supply us with prolonged energy, fiber, and multiple nutrients that our bodies need for optimal health. These good quality carbohydrates can also trigger serotonin synthesis. Recognized as the “happy hormone,” serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that affects our mood and sleep. Instead of reaching for the “comfort foods” like cookies, chips and ice cream, which we think will make us happy, choose the unprocessed carbohydrates that will provide sustained energy and an improved mood. Try a tablespoon of almond butter on a whole wheat cracker for a delicious and uplifting snack!
Written By: Margie Setterlof, PT, CN