What you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and your mood. If you’re feeling down, food can lift your spirits.
Your brain takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses, even while you’re asleep, this is why it requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat, and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference.
Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress. The free radicals, produced when the body uses oxygen, can indeed damage cells.
Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.
Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just in the moment, but the next day. Try eating a “clean” diet for two to three weeks — that means cutting out all processed foods and sugar. See how you feel. Then slowly introduce foods back into your diet, one by one, and see how you feel.
When some people “go clean,” they cannot believe how much better they feel both physically and emotionally, and how much worse they then feel when they reintroduce the foods that are known to enhance inflammation.
- FATTY FISH like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower your risk of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own.
- DARK CHOCOLATE is rich in compounds that improve mood since it’s a quick source of fuel for your brain.
- BANANAS are a great source of natural sugar, vitamin B6, and prebiotic fiber, which work together to keep your blood sugar levels and mood stable. Vitamin B6 helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
- BERRIES are a great source of antioxidants, and it has been proved that a diet rich in antioxidants may help manage inflammation associated with depression and other mood disorders.
- OATS provide fiber that can stabilize your blood sugar levels and boost your mood. They’re also high in iron, which may improve mood symptoms in those with iron deficiency anemia.
- NUTS AND SEEDS are high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber, which may support brain function and lower your risk of depression.
- COFFEE is the world’s most popular drink, and it may make the world a bit happier, too. It provides numerous compounds, including caffeine and chlorogenic acid, that may boost your mood. Research suggests that decaf coffee may even have an effect.
- BEANS AND LENTILS are rich sources of mood-boosting nutrients, particularly B vitamins.
- FERMENTED FOODS like labneh, laban and yogurt are rich in probiotics that support health. The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids.