Drew Ramsey, MD, co-author of The Happiness Diet, says that eating the wrong foods can add to our daily stress and encourage feelings of anxiousness, lethargy, and testiness. Unfortunately, these calorie packed foods are the same foods many of us instinctively reach for when we are feeling blue. Feeling blue makes people reach for processed foods that make them feel more blue; it’s a vicious cycle.
The good news is that our grocery stores are packed with brain foods that have specific mood lifting benefits that boost your energy and keep your hands out of that chip bag. Here are some top recommendations.
- Mussels: Not muscles but mussels. Mussels have the highest naturally occurring levels of B12 on Earth. B12 insulates your brain cells, keeping your brain sharp as you age. Mussels are also a source of zinc, iodine, and selenium – all nutrients needed for the health of our mood regulating thyroids.
- Swiss Chard: This green leaf is packed with magnesium – a nutrient essential for the brain chemical reactions that increase our energy levels. In fact, a 2009 study specifically links higher magnesium intake with lower depression scores. Other sources of magnesium include spinach, soybeans, and halibut.
- Blue Potatoes: Not always easy to find, so grab them when you see them. They are blue from anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that protect short-term memory and reduce mood-busting inflammation.
- Grass-Fed Beef: Compared to grain fed beef, the grass fed option proves higher in conjugated linoleic acid (which works against stress hormones and helps with belly fat). Lamb is another grass-fed, red meat option.
- Dark Chocolate: The cocoa gives an instant boost to mood and concentration by improving blood flow to the brain. Milk chocolate does not have enough cocoa to create the effect. Treat yourself in moderation. A little over 100 grams is all that is needed to reap the benefits of cocoa.
- Asparagus: A top plant for tryptophan. Tryptophan is the basis for serotonin, a mood regulation neurotransmitter and the central target for popular medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. Asparagus also contains folate – the deficiency of which has been connected to higher frequency of depression. Other sources of tryptophan include turkey, tuna, and eggs.
- Greek Yogurt: This has higher calcium than milk or regular yogurt, and the calcium is good for more than your bones. Calcium alerts your brain to release mood-boosting and energy-boosting neurotransmitters connected with improved memory and sharper thinking.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Lycopene, an antioxidant that protects your brain and fights depression-causing inflammation is in the skin of tomatoes. Because cherry tomatoes give us more skin per gram than large tomatoes, they are a richer source of lycopene. Serving them with olive oil is a mood boosting double whammy because olive oil increases lycopene absorption. Organic may help. Researchers at the University of California-Davis find that organic tomatoes have higher lycopene levels.