Mood Foods: The Key to Calm May Be Found on Your Plate
While the TV may offer many suggestions on how to find that even keel, dietitians say the first place at home to look might need to be the refrigerator.
"Foods have very powerful compounds that affect brain chemistry," says Mary Martin Nordness, nutrition communication director for the Southeast United Dairy Industry Association. "What you eat has a lot to do with how you feel."
Nordness represents a group that is one of the country's biggest producers of an ingredient that contributes to happier moods: Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to regulate production of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters that governs depression.
Our bodies produce Vitamin D naturally when exposed (without sunscreen) to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes daily, but many people don't get enough exposure to sunlight and therefore need to get the rest of the needed Vitamin D from food, Nordness says. Besides dairy products, Vitamin D can be found in salmon, tuna, sardines and eggs.
Complex carbohydrates also contribute to steadier serotonin levels and less irritability. For that, whole grains are your friend, as are bananas, sweet potatoes and lentils.
Other tips Nordness passes along for beating the blues:
- Foods naturally high in folate, like spinach, oranges and sunflower seeds, can help treat the blues and lower the risk of Alzheimer's.
- Chewing crunchy foods, such as celery, apples, carrots and popcorn, can make us feel happier because it stimulates serotonin production.
- Eat something every four to five hours to keep blood sugar levels stable.