The saying "you are what you eat" may have some merit when it comes to your mood. "Many people fail to realize that a majority of the chemicals that regulate our moods actually come from the nutrients in the food we eat," said Rania Batayneh, a San Francisco-based nutritionist. If your mood is not want you'd like it to be, stock up on foods that will give you a much-needed boost.
Cold Water Fish
A deficit in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the efficiency or movement of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which can throw your mood off balance, said Batayneh. Cold water fish like salmon, tuna or sardines can put you back on track and offer an easy snacking source to boost your mood and satisfy your appetite.
Nuts are another great source of omega-3 fatty acids. This option works especially well for vegetarians. Spruce up oatmeal with a variety of walnuts, pecans and almonds or experience the mood-boosting benefits of nuts with a peanut butter snack bar when you're in a rush and a little flustered.
Adding folic acid to your diet can increase the serotonin levels in your brain and calm your mood at the same time, said Batayneh. Cooked spinach is a good source of folic acid. When your mood is low, fix yourself a salad of spinach, lima beans and chopped root vegetables to boost your spirits and your folate intake.
Get a daily dose of selenium by incorporating more whole grains into your diet. A lack of selenium can make you anxious, irritable, hostile and depressed, Batayneh said. Opt for whole-grain breads and cereals to start your day off on the right foot and in the best state of mind.
Fill your daily diet with high-protein foods such as oats, bananas, dried dates and low-fat dairy products to jump start your new attitude. These snacking sources provide the best sources for tryptophan, said Batayneh. "Tryptophan plays an important role in regulating mood, and decreasing tryptophan can lead to increased aggression. It is not produced by our body naturally, so it's critical that we get it from our diet."
Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Eating healthy tastes good and helps you feel better. Toss out those sugar-packed treats and stock up on fresh fruits and veggies. "Sugar spikes and drops your blood sugar, leaving you feeling cranky and moody," said Elika Kormeili, founder of the Center for Healthy and Happy Living in Santa Monica, California. "Changing your diet can be difficult, but you have to be able to tolerate temptations."
Kormeili recommends attacking that bad mood with fiber. Foods rich in soluble fiber, such as barley, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots and beans can drastically boost your mood and spruce up your good cheer. "They slow down the absorption of sugar in your blood and therefore potentially lessen blood sugar and mood swings," said Kormeili.
You don't have to wait for the fall season to break out the pumpkin seeds. High in tryptophan and zinc, pumpkin seeds are calming and offer a great snack to help balance blood sugar during any season, said Trudy Scott, nutritionist and author of "The Antianxiety Food Solution" based in Folsom, California. Spice up the seeds and your taste buds by baking them with sea salt, turmeric, ginger and pepper.
Start your day off with a homemade breakfast that will boost your mood and your energy level. "Eggs have amino acids for making feel-good chemicals like serotonin," said Scott. "They are great for breakfast and getting a good start to the day to prevent blood sugar swings." So whip up an omelet, boil an egg for a midday snack or scramble eggs with your favorite veggies and feel the mood-boosting effects.
Vitamin C Sources
Mild to moderate deficiency of vitamin C may be associated with increased nervousness and anxiety, Scott said. Boost your immunity, protect against toxins and improve your mood by adding more oranges, bell peppers, potatoes, broccoli, kale and leafy greens to your diet. "Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and chard contain plenty of calming magnesium as well as good amounts of the B vitamins," said Scott.