6 Mood-Boosting Foods

Low energy? Sour mood? The foods you eat can help combat winter blues.
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Flax Seeds

Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids—essential nutrients
not produced in the body—is a key to mood and energy regulation, says
Claire LeBrun, a senior nutritionist at the George Washington Medical
Faculty Associates. To keep bad moods at bay and energy levels high, add
nutty-flavored ground flax seeds to a morning smoothie or yogurt. Two
tablespoons contain more than 130 percent of the daily recommended dose of
omega-3s. Other good sources are walnuts, fish, spinach, broccoli, and
edamame.

Caffeine

When your energy is lagging and your brain seems foggy, a cup
or two of a caffeinated drink may be just what the doctor ordered. A 2011
study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who
drank two to three cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of depression
by 15 percent. But take note of how much caffeine is in each cup, says
LeBrun. If you’re sensitive to it, stick to one or two cups before lunch
and try green tea instead. It contains 24 to 40 milligrams of caffeine,
while coffee contains as much as 200.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are a healthy alternative when you’re craving
carbs. Unlike refined grains—found in pasta and white bread—whole grains
release sugar into the blood relatively slowly, allowing for a longer
energy boost. They’re also rich in folic acid and have been associated
with reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Good choices
include quinoa, oatmeal, and wild rice.

Dark Chocolate

There’s a reason we turn to sweets when we’re under stress. A
study in the Journal of Proteome Research found that adults who
ate 11/2 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks showed reduced
levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. LeBrun says dark chocolate also
contains mild amounts of antioxidants, which rid the body of damaging free
radicals. Plus, its low levels of caffeine provide a small energy
boost.

Beets

Folate, another B vitamin, is important not just for pregnant
women; studies have shown that people suffering from depression are
usually folate-deficient. One cup of beets contains 34 percent of the
daily recommended value of folate. Legumes, lentils, and fortified cereal
are also good sources.

Shellfish

Mussels, clams, oysters—shellfish are powerhouses of B12, a
water-soluble vitamin essential for a healthy mind. B12 deficiency can be
dangerous to one’s mental health, LeBrun says. Symptoms include fatigue,
memory loss, and depression. Other good sources of B12 include salmon,
low-fat milk, and yogurt.

How to Beat the Winter Blues ››

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