Add the food on your plate to your arsenal of tactics to combat stress and foul moods. Your daily diet has a powerful impact on your mental health.
We’ve rounded up 12 foods that support your brain function and mood.
You’ll notice that this list has recurring themes: whole foods high in healthy fats and antioxidants. Fill your meals with these kinds of health-promoting foods to keep your brain healthy and happy.
Heart-healthy salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are powerful supporters of brain function. More specifically, omega-3s encourage the release of feel-good serotonin from the brain. Eat fatty fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel at least once a week to support good omega-3 levels.
This is the food you wanted to see on this list! Daily ingestion of a small amount of dark chocolate can help reduce stress hormones. In addition, chocolate is surprisingly high in antioxidants and metabolized into serotonin. Remember, this doesn’t give a free pass to candy bars. Dark chocolate is the key, particularly dark chocolate that’s low in sugar (otherwise, you’ll experience that loathed sugar crash). A few squares of high quality, low sugar dark chocolate a day can give you your chocolate fix and keep your mood sky high.
Mussels are an excellent source of vitamin B-12, with only 3 oz delivering over 300% of your recommended daily intake! A vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to mental fog and foul moods. But the benefit doesn’t stop there with mussels; they’re also great sources of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, zinc, selenium, iron and iodine.
Don’t gag—liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet! It’s packed with all the B vitamins (vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6, folic acid and biotin), iron, zinc, copper and much more. As we’ve already mentioned, all those nutrients are important for brain function and mood support. Just 4 oz of liver a week can provide many benefits. For those who can’t stand the taste and/or texture, try liver supplements or frozen liver pills.
5Spinach (and other green leafy veggies)
Green leafy veggies like spinach, chard, kale and collard greens are great sources of folate, a B vitamin that helps produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine) that support your ability to beat back stress and sadness.
Anthocyanins are what give blueberries their vibrant blue color, and they're also a potent antioxidant that supports the production of dopamine in the brain, making them uniquely equipped to boost your mood. Plus, like all berries, blueberries have high levels of antioxidants that seem to support mood and mental functions.
There are many, many reasons to love green tea, and helping to perk up your mood is one of them! In a study published by Public Health Nutrition, people who drank roughly four cups of green tea a day were half as likely to experience sad moods as people who didn’t drink any green tea. The amino acid L-Theanine, abundant in green tea, could be one of the reasons tea is a mood booster.
We’ve written before about the health benefits of turmeric, and it’s no surprise that it can help boost your mood, too. The main active component of turmeric is curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that acts as a mental booster. A boost to your mental clarity also promotes mood regulation. Score!
Avocados have been in the health news spotlight for a few years now and for good reason. They're another excellent source of healthy fats and a slew of vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, glutathione and lutein, to name a few). As we’ve covered, B vitamins are crucial to brain function and mood regulation, so meeting your daily recommended intake can produce good vibes.
A handful of walnuts can help put a smile on your face! Walnuts are loaded with antioxidants, omega-3s and magnesium. Magnesium is one of the top mineral deficiencies across the globe, and it’s important for bone health, cognitive health, cardiovascular health and more. Snacking on some walnuts definitely doesn’t hurt.
Speaking of nuts, add Brazil nuts to your snack list. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, a trace mineral that has potent thyroid and mood-regulating effects. As a matter of fact, just one or two Brazil nuts will meet your daily selenium intake. Wow, right? Besides that, though, Brazil nuts are also a source of manganese, thiamin (vitamin B-1), copper, magnesium, vitamin E and healthy fats.
Probiotics are the shining star of the health world right now with numerous studies cementing the importance of a thriving gut flora. Among those are a study that showed that young adults who eat more fermented foods are less likely to experience the effects of anxiety and a study showing that volunteers who consumed probiotic yogurt had improved mood. There are many fermented foods to pick from—sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and kombucha all contain probiotics.
This list will get you started on finding foods that will help keep you healthy and happy.
What are your favorites mood boosting foods? How do you add them to your everyday diet?