While many believe “comfort” foods, like macaroni and cheese, greasy fries or a Boston-crème doughnut, will help them feel better, the scientific evidence disagrees. The research on which foods have a long-lasting influence on mood suggests a feel good treat should actually be something that is good for you!
The article “Diet and Mental Health,” published on mentalhealth.org, reports research suggests what people eat may affect both their physical and mental health. According to another study, published in Nutritional Neuroscience, it is just as important to minimize consumption of prepackaged and high-processed foods as it is to eat more wholesome foods. Not only will a healthful/wholesome diet help control your weight, there is scientific evidence that strongly suggests better dietary choices can help ward off symptoms of sadness.
The American Dental Association also points out that a well-balanced diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein will help your teeth stay healthy. For more information on how nutrition can benefit your oral health, contact your local dentist for more information.
All nuts are densely packed with protein, fiber and beneficial fats. You should try to eat about one ounce of mixed nuts every day. While all nuts contain highly-value nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts, almonds and especially cashews are the go-to nuts for improving attitude.
Cashews have been making headlines for years as a potential natural antidepressant because the nuts contain high levels of vitamin B3 and magnesium. Additionally, cashews contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid the body uses to synthesize serotonin, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter.
Jacka says high-quality proteins are an essential component of an attitude-boosting diet. She also points out that grass-fed beef is an excellent example of a high-quality protein as well as a solid source of omega-3 fatty acids that have both shown promise in managing depression. Studies have also shown a correlation between high blood-sugar levels and negative feelings. Protein is vital in balancing blood-sugar levels, which has a significant role in controlling depression and mental illness.
Researchers from Australia sought to demonstrate how red meat benefits those with depression and anxiety in 2012. They looked at a group of 1,046 women aged 20 to 93 years, and found something jaw dropping.
The women who ate less than three to four servings of lamb or beef weekly were twice as likely to get a depression and/or anxiety diagnosis. That’s right: TWICE as likely. The researchers also discovered that lifestyle and demographics could not have accounted for the result.
A single serving of grass-fed beef is also a good source of vitamins B2, B3 and B6 and contains nearly 50 percent of the USDA recommended daily amount of vitamin B12! Grass-fed beef is also an incredibly high source of protein and contains essential amino acids like cysteine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tyrosine, tryptophan and valine. All of these nutrients have been shown to have benefits in boosting mental health.
While it has long been touted as “brain” food, fish is a food that has shown a multitude of health benefits across myriad of studies. According to findings published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fish plays a substantial role in numerous traditional regional diets, such as the Mediterranean and Japanese diets, many of which show anti-depressive benefits. Jacka suggests consuming three-ounces of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, two or three times a week. As an added bonus, the American Dental Association says that because it is so rich in important vitamins and minerals, like calcium and Vitamin D, eating fish is a good way to keep your teeth strong.
Eating high fiber, unprocessed whole grains, instead of refined flours and processed-flour products, will benefit both your body and enhance your attitude. Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RD, CDN, a New York based dietitian, says keeping blood-sugar levels stable by not overindulging in sweets and highly-refined simple carbohydrates helps to stabilize blood-sugar levels that in turn help to regulate neurotransmitter secretions. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, men should consume 38 grams of fiber a day and women should get 25 grams a day.
A review of studies published in the journal Nutrition examined the correlation between high fruit consumption and depression. The review showed a strong relationship between eating a lot of fruit and lower incidence of feeling depressed. This is believed due to the high levels of macro and micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals contained in most fruits.
Consuming a wide variety of fruits, especially bananas and blueberries, is ideal. Bananas are sweet and healthful treat that have been shown to increase feelings of “happiness.” A study published by the US National Library of Medicine, “Effects of Acute Blueberry Flavonoids on Mood in Children and Young Adults,” show blueberries to have potential benefits for improving attitude. The USDA recommends people try to eat about two cups of fruit a day.
Going for a carrot, instead of a chocolate-chip cookie, when you are feeling down may not be your first thought. However, the science says root vegetables and greens are the better choice. Jacka points out that the same research that links higher-fruit intake with improved disposition also suggests that increasing vegetable intake positively correlates with the same result. Leafy-green vegetables also have many amazing health benefits, as the plants are very high in crucial vitamins and minerals like calcium and folic acid. The American Dental Association also chimes in here, reporting that these nutrients are crucial for strong teeth and gums!
Rapidly emerging and expanding research in gut-health issues is suggesting diet choice is critical in maintaining the intestinal microbiota that appears to affect both health and behavior. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and certain yogurts are quality sources of these beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics.
Peas and Beans
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging showed beans, peas and legumes are a large part of the Mediterranean diet and seem to play a role in helping to manage temperament. Peas and beans also help support a health gut by supplying prebiotics that sustain beneficial gut bacteria.
While the ADA may not be too crazy about this one, a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology looked at the cognitive benefits of consuming one chocolate drink a day for one month. The study found people who drank coco had the highest boost in positive feelings, believed due to the polyphenol content in hot chocolate.
The results of a dozen studies, reported in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, suggests that drinking just one cup of caffeinated coffee a day could boost both short- and long-term mood, The study showed that protection tops out at 400 milliliters, or about two cups, of coffee per day.
Are there specific foods that help your mood? Feel free to comment below!