Mood-boosting foods: can you eat yourself happy?

pmood-boosting foodsCC: Eduardo Lopes at Unsplash

Although it may seem as though modern lives are full of conveniences, much of the population is feeling stressed. With 63% of people worrying about the future of the nation and 62% fretting about money, it’s a wonder anyone seems happy. Although you can’t always escape your stresses, you may be able to use mood-boosting foods to make them less challenging.

Stress has an undeniable link with mental health conditions. It can cause depression, exacerbate anxiety, and lead to burnout. Each day, the news brings fresh ways for us to combat stress. Meditation, yoga, and exercise all prove useful. But as they’re so firm within the public’s consciousness and stress levels appear to be worsening, it’s worth considering whether mood-boosting foods are the missing part of the stress-relief puzzle.

If you’re ready to alter your diet for the better, here are some suggestions:

First of all, where is the evidence for eating mood-boosting foods?

Mood-boosting foods are currently being examined by Felice Jacka, a pioneering scientist who is spearheading the nutritional psychiatry movement. According to Jacka’s research so far, changing your diet for the better can improve your mood by as much as 30%.

Interestingly, Jacka’s findings didn’t factor in exercise. Although exercise should feature high on your wellness to-do list, it’s reassuring that food alone has such a positive impact.

Prioritize omega-3 fatty acids

According to Jacka, you’re more likely to experience strong mental wellbeing if you eat grass-fed beef rather than grain-fed beef. Why? Because omega-3 fatty acids are a prominent feature of mood-boosting foods.

Of course, grass-fed beef isn’t your only source of omega-3 fatty acids. You can turn to other resources, such as:

  • Salmon, tuna, and sardines
  • Flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts
  • Using flaxseed oil and canola oil for cooking and dressings
  • Fortified foods featuring omega-3 fatty acids

One of the main reasons omega-3 fatty acids make mood-boosting foods so powerful is that people who have depression experience low levels of certain brain chemicals. Two of these chemicals are EPA and DHA. When you eat these mood-boosting foods, your EPA and DHA levels may rise.

Tryptophans may work, but only with the right gut bacteria

Jacka’s research also highlights how packing your diet with tryptophan-based foods to boost serotonin levels is too simple. The brain is a complex organ, which requires more effort than just focusing on a single amino acid.

Instead, you can still look for tryptophan in your mood-boosting foods, but prioritize your gut health too. Having the right balance of yeast and bacteria increases your chances of tryptophan boosting your serotonin levels as intended. In other words, start adding probiotics and kimchi to your fridge.

For reference purposes, some excellent sources of tryptophan include:

  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Chia seeds and pumpkin seeds

Overall, eat fewer processed foods and meet your body’s nutritional needs

Much of the Western world is too dependent on overly processed foods. While the occasional packet of dry noodles won’t send your mental health into a downward spiral, over-reliance is an issue. In addition to harming your mental health, you may increase your cardiovascular disease risk factors.

One of Jacka’s greatest mood-boosting food recommendations is to look at your current nutritional needs. Are you meeting all of them? If not, you may be denying yourself the chance to feel happier. As a simple approach to changing, consider turning to a healthy alternative each time a processed food captures your attention.

In addition to enhancing your mental wellbeing, mood-boosting foods can benefit your health overall. Now all you need to do is start looking into new recipes.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.