Certain dietary and lifestyle choices may help support a healthy mood.
Along with getting adequate sleep and exercising, eating certain foods has been shown to reduce depression and anxiety in some cases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many aspects of our lives. But between navigating lockdowns, practicing social distancing, and witnessing the loss of millions of lives, the toll on our mental health is undeniable.
One systematic review and meta-analysis of 13 studies found that depression and anxiety rates have increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.1 And when evaluating just the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns, researchers report reduced overall mental well-being and increased depressive symptoms as a result.2
Most recently, researchers who evaluated two sets of data—one that was collected pre-COVID-19 and the other collected during the pandemic—concluded that the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the U.S. was more than 3-fold higher during COVID-19 compared than before the pandemic.3
So, what can you do if you want to be proactive about your mental health? If you are experiencing severe mood changes, including suicidal thoughts, you should speak with your healthcare provider and seek immediate support.
But to upkeep your mental health and mood on a daily basis, certain dietary and lifestyle choices may be helpful. While we know getting enough sleep and exercising can be helpful mood boosters, diet can also play a role in your emotional health.
Unhealthy dietary patterns—think sweetened beverages, refined food, fried food, processed meat, refined grain, high-fat dairy, biscuits, and pastries—have been associated with an increased risk of depression.4 But the good news is there are certain foods you can eat that can help boost your mood.
What This Means For You
Incorporating foods into your diet like trout, chocolate, and egg yolks can help boost your overall mood. Eating these foods may also help reduce your risk of developing depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
8 Foods to Support Your Mood
So, what should you eat if you want to support your mood in a healthy way? While a generally healthy dietary pattern is your best bet, there are certain foods that have been called out for their specific positive role in mood support. Below are eight foods that may help support a healthy mood and even help reduce risk of depression and anxiety in certain cases.
Trout and other fatty fish are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, as well as other key nutrients like selenium and protein. Many nutritional features of fatty fish have been shown to support a healthy mood and may even ease depression.5
In fact, researchers have gone as far as to claim that feelings of anxiety and stress can be eased by the regular consumption of fish.6
The American Psychiatric Association recommends that you eat fish two or more times a week, preferably fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and mackerel. The omega-3 fatty acids found in these fish have a protective effect against mood disorders, according to the invited participants in the omega-3 fatty acids subcommittee, assembled by the Committee on Research on Psychiatric Treatments of the American Psychiatric Association.7
As long as you are choosing options that are made of 70% cocoa or more, chocolate has been shown to positively impact mood and help people feel more content.
A 2013 study in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that consuming chocolate may help improve your mood, by making you feel calmer and more content.8 Chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins, which can help people feel happier.
It is also a natural source of magnesium, a mineral that plays a pivotal role in the management of mood. In a clinical review of 18 studies, researchers found that adequate magnesium intake is linked to a positive effect on subjective anxiety levels.9
Live organisms called probiotics live in your gut and offer a host of health benefits. As opposed to potentially harmful live organisms like e.coli and coliforms, probiotics colonize your gut and have been shown to support a healthy digestive system, immune system, and even a healthy mood.10 Specifically, the gut microbiota—the makeup of organisms in your gut—is associated with many factors associated with mood, including anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder.
Certain live probiotics can play a role in producing and delivering serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is known as the “happy chemical”.
Eating fermented foods like kimchi, yogurts, and sauerkraut is an excellent way to incorporate probiotics into your diet.
While many people know vitamin D’s role in bone and immune health, many may not realize that a deficiency can also negatively impact mood, and is linked to higher prevalence of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), seasonal affective disorder, non-specified mood disorder, and major depressive disorder.11
How To Boost Your Vitamin D Levels During Cold and Flu Season
While egg yolks are a natural source of vitamin D, you can also choose other foods like salmon and milk if you are not an egg-lover. Exposing your skin to sunshine can also help your body avoid a vitamin D deficiency.
Nuts—a convenient snack that is loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals—are a nutritional powerhouse and are easy to incorporate into any diet.
In one study which evaluated over 15,000 people over a 10-year period, moderate nut intake was linked to a 23% reduced depression risk.12 Whether sprinkled on oatmeal, added to a salad, or just eaten on their own, nuts can be a satisfying addition that can impact your overall well-being.
Eating lean chicken will give your body a boost of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, two nutrients that can help support a healthy mood.
Vitamin B6 helps produce serotonin, and vitamin B12 plays a role in the production of dopamine: two factors that help regulate mood.
Additionally, chicken contains an amino acid called tryptophan. Diets poor in tryptophan may induce depression, and tryptophan intake is important for those susceptible to depression, according to data published in Neurochemistry International. 13
Eating oysters is more than an aphrodisiac. Loaded with DHA omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, they can help you feel good too.
Zinc deficiency has been linked to depression and anxiety development, and supplementing with this mineral may improve mood in certain cases.14
The benefits of saffron as an antidepressant are well-documented, and in some cases, the use of this spice is more effective than placebo and at least equivalent to the therapeutic doses of certain anti-depressant medications.15
Since the dose used in many clinical trials is larger than what many people may consume in their diet, supplementation of saffron may be needed to see an effect.
Author: Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC
Source: Very Well Health: 8 Foods That May Help Regulate Your Mood