Eat Right to Feel Right

By Cara Moncur

It’s the beginning of spring and this winter has been particularly nasty for those of us living in the Midwest. It has been cold, gray, cold, snowy—oh, and did I mention cold? Sadly, the gray weather has a tendency to turn our moods a little gray as well.

Spring Food Veggies
​While there are many ways to boost your mood​, (say, a month-long trip to Hawaii or a cruise to the Bahamas), let’s discuss a more practical tactic: adjusting your diet. 

Several recent studies have reported correlations between a healthy diet and a lower incidence of mood disorders such as depression. In 2009, a study followed over 10,000 Spaniards for almost four and half years and explored this association. They found that those who reported eating a healthy diet, which included more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fats, were about half as likely to develop depression as those who did not.  

Furthermore, specific foods/nutrients may have the ability to alter our moods. Here is a list of five specific feel-good foods to try:

Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like almonds, flaxseed, and oily fish such as salmon, help the body build neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain, and some studies have shown that eating plenty of these fats has depression-preventing qualities.     

Spinach

It’s not just for Popeye. Spinach is part of the greens family that includes kale and chard, and is a rich source of several minerals that are good for our moods.

Oranges

Most people know oranges are packed with Vitamin C. What they don’t know is stress can deplete your storage of vitamin C, and Vitamin C helps your immune system function under stress more effectively.

Milk

It does your mood good. Milk is rich in calcium and the amino acid tryptophan. Calcium is important for building strong bones, but it can also help calm your nerves when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Tryptophan is important for producing serotonin, which elevates mood. If you are lactose intolerant, or just plain don’t prefer milk, a handful of almonds will do the trick. They contain tryptophan as well. 

Beans

Beans are part of the legumes food group, which contain the B vitamin folate. B vitamins, including folate, are involved in the development of new brain cells. This might help you react to stressful situations.

While these foods may have mood-enhancing properties, eating an overall healthy diet which includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limits processed foods will have the greatest impact on your mood. In contrast, eating too much junk food can negatively impact your mood. While it may be convenient to reach for a bag of chips, fries, or a donut, your mood may suffer the consequences. The nutrients in these types of food are so refined that your body absorbs them quickly, giving you a quick burst of energy, but leaving no long-term energy for your body to feed off of. In addition to their poor nutrient content, they may contain additives or preservatives that can negatively affect your mood. Eating too many of these types of foods can also lead to obesity and poor self image, which also can negatively impact mood. 

So take my advice; if you take care of your body by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and limiting processed foods, your bright mood will be able to survive the gray weather.