Eat Your Way to Emotional Well-being (Really)

Feeling a little blah? We get it. At one time or another, we all feel a little off our rhythm, out of step and kinda blue. Whether it’s because you had a rough week at work, a fight with a bestie, or a break up with a significant other, there are ways to naturally kick the doldrums to the curb. It’s not just exercise or spending time with family and friends that can heighten our joy — what we eat can have a feel-good effect, too. Add these to your diet to boost your emotional wellbeing:

Bananas

They’re packed with tyrosine, an essential amino acid that increases our feel-good hormone dopamine. In a recent study, researchers discovered that raw fruits and veggies had a positive effect on the mental health of the participants. “Bananas stood out in my data because there were among the most commonly eaten of those higher in well-being,” says study author Tamlin Conner, Associate Professor Department of Psychology University of Otago, New Zealand. If bananas are not your thing, apricots, sesame seeds and almonds are also good sources of tyrosine.

Carrots

High in carotenoids, carrots also topped the list of Conner’s research. Carotenoids are shown to significantly reduce cortisol — our main stress hormone — and symptoms of poor emotional and physical health. But don’t bother firing up the stove because they are best enjoyed in their natural state. “My research suggests that eating nutrient-rich produce in their raw and unprocessed state is better than eating them cooked or from cans,” Conner says.

Oolong and green tea

Light and refreshing, these teas are perfect for those moments when you feel like you are being pulled in several different directions. They contain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can provide balance and help you feel calm. Plus, they have just enough caffeine to give you a little boost.

Asparagus

These green stalks contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, and low levels of this nutrient has been linked to depression. Consuming a half cup provides you with 34% of your daily requirement. Although folic acid is added to many processed foods, such as cereals and bread, it is best when we get it from green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, which offers the added bonus of being low in calories and contains magnesium, which has been shown to mitigate the symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Vitamin C

You probably already knew that oranges, which are practically synonymous with vitamin C, are great for your health. But, it might be news that vitamin C can enhance your mental state by lowering stress hormonesboosting mood and lowering blood pressure. When you have a stressful day ahead, pop some citrus in your bag to have as a mid-afternoon snack. You can munch on kiwifruit as well, since it’s especially high in vitamin C.

Kefir

This probiotic, which is also referred to as fermented milk, has been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression. “Most of our brain chemicals are made in the gut, so improving gut health by eating fermented foods or taking probiotics, aka ‘psycho-biotics,’ improves mood,” says Leslie Korn, PhD, a Harvard Medical-school trained specialist in mental health nutrition and author of The Good Mood Kitchen: Simple Recipes and Nutrition Tips for Emotional Balance. “Don’t forget the fiber — it is the soil needed for the seeds (probiotic) to grow.” Make overnight oats by combining and refrigerating rolled oats, berries and kefir for a healthy way to start your day.

Chocolate

The sweet treat might lead to an attitude adjustment. New research found that consuming chocolate with a minimum of 70% cacao has a positive effect on stress levels and mood. Researchers surmised that the beneficial effects it has on our brains could be due to the potent antioxidants flavonoids and anti-inflammatory agents it contains.

Comments