It usually happens unknowingly. You’ve had a stressful day, and the next thing you know is that you reach for certain foods because it makes you feel good.
Many of us crave certain foods when we’re down, depressed, angry or simply bored, even though we don’t know why these things make us feel good! This is because the meal or snack you choose increases the concentration of serotonin in the brain (a feel-good chemical). Serotonin, in turn, improves sensations and moods, making you feel relaxed, peaceful, or even sleepy.
What foods are considered mood-lifters?
- Chocolate: Everybody’s best friend! Chocolate is one of the most powerful mood elevators. Chocolate cravings really rise as moods sink. Chocolate doesn’t only contain serotonin-boosting sugar and mind-soothing fat, but other chemicals that favorably affect brain messengers controlling moods. So you can have it in small amounts as a treat from time to time.
- Omega-3 rich fish: Eating fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, which is a type of healthy fat, may ease depressive moods by affecting signaling among brain cells. Its main sources include salmon, sardines and mackerel, and some vegetarian sources like certain seeds and nuts, especially flaxseeds and walnuts. Bon appetite!
- Carbohydrate-rich foods: Bread, pastas, rice, or potatoes elevate the levels of serotonin in the brain which can improve moods and relieve irritability. Go for the whole-grain variety that’s slowly digested and absorbed, making you feel more satiated.
- Vitamin B-rich foods: Foods such as dried beans, whole grains, fish, dairy products, chicken, eggs, bananas, avocados are rich in tryptophan which is an amino acid (one of the building blocks of proteins) that also produces serotonin in the body.
Sunshine makes you relax too!
Don’t forget that going outdoors in the sunshine makes you feel better too. This is because your skin synthesizes Vitamin D from the sun which is known to boost your mood. In fact, you can get what your body requires by just exposing your hands and face to the sun for 15 minutes 3 days a week! Remember that if getting out is out of the question; make sure that your diet contains vitamin D fortified milk, salmon and eggs!
Exercise – also a mood lifter!
It works by releasing mood-enhancing hormones called endorphins in the body. This helps alleviate stress and boost the mood. So when you crave foods, instead for heading to the kitchen all the time, why don’t you take a walk or head for the gym instead, it will definitely help you feel happy without piling on the calories!
In conclusion, a healthy diet is good for the body and the mind. Eating balanced meals at regular intervals will supply your body with the energy while the properties of the food will provide your brain with the substances needed to produce serotonin. So the next time you’re feeling low, go for something nourishing and stay happy the healthy way.