The next time you’re feeling down, all it might take to get back into your normal headspace is making room in your diet for some proven mood-boosters.
It might not seem like what you eat is all that important in what goes on in your brain, but more and more research is proving food doesn’t just affect your risk of issues like heart disease and diabetes — it also plays a role in depression, anxiety, and other not-so-fun mental health conditions.
If you want to lift your spirits, take a bite out of these five mood-boosting picks — then keep them on your plate on the regular to ensure your future self is still feeling great, too.
Halloween is right around the corner, and if you’re not into carving pumpkins, there’s one reason you might want to get in on the festivities. The seeds you’ll find when scooping out the stringy orange goo contain one of the highest amounts of tryptophan of any food — aka the amino acid that helps control your mood. Studies have shown eating foods that contain high amounts of tryptophan could decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, so don’t toss ‘em in the trash: roast them in the oven for a healthy snack.
Yeah, yeah — everyone seems to be raving about kombucha these days. But maybe that’s because of its impressive mood-boosting effects. According to Harvard Medical School, the foods you eat play a big role in how you feel — especially because 95 percent of the serotonin your body makes is in your gut. That neurotransmitter is responsible for everything from sleep regulation to your mood, and keeping your levels of good bacteria up via probiotics and fermented foods is a great way to keep your mental health in check. And that’s where kombucha comes in: The trendy drink is jam-packed with body-benefiting bacteria that can keep your spirits lifted.
You don’t need fish oil to get your omega-3 fix, which has been found to play a role in your mood. Harvard Medical School says flaxseeds — which actually contain three omega-3 fats instead of two like fish oil — is a great source, too. In fact, they’re the most concentrated source of that third source — aka alpha-linolenic acid — that you can get from plants. When you eat them, just make sure to ground them up beforehand, which the Mayo Clinic says is much easier for your body to digest.
Whether it’s in spaghetti sauce or on top of your veggie burger, tomatoes can do your mood a lot of good. The bright red fruit contains the highest amount of lycopene— a powerful antioxidant — of any food, and studies have shown eating a diet that’s full of them can help fight off depression (and even help prevent it!), keeping you happy, positive, and feeling great. Basically, add them into anything and everything you can. (And no — not just in ketchup-form.)
Mushrooms are continually proving to be one of the best plants for your mental health. On the adaptogen front, studies have shown sneaking some Lion’s Mane into your smoothie could help decrease anxiety and depression. And when it comes to the kinds you can buy at the grocery store — particularly cremini (aka baby portobellos) and oyster varieties — you’re golden, too: they’re an incredibly high source of the micronutrient selenium, which has been also been found to help fight off depression and lift your mood.
More ways to live better through nutrition: