10 Best Foods for Your Moods

You need to know the 10 best foods for your moods if you want to prevent and treat your depression naturally. Certain foods, called functional foods contain nutrients and phytochemicals that allow your biochemistry to self-regulate in an uplifting way. We also see that a balance of proteins, PUFAs, carbohydrates, plant foods and fiber may be necessary to treat your moods with foods. Each time you each, you have the opportunity to positively impact your mood, or send yourself into a downward spiral. You might be aware that your favorite foods could be sending you into an addictive reward-seeking roller-coaster that is ultimately causing you to seek the next high, only to send you into a low. Using food you can boost your mood, create more of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, and avoid highs and lows that keep you jonsesing for your next fix.

  1. Dark chocolate

    Raw and naturally processed cacao contains a neurochemical called Anandamide, a cannabinoid, that mimics the bonding hormone oxytocin. This means that you really do LOVE chocolate because it rewards you with such loving and connected feelings. Some studies show that anandamide may not be available by the brain for use, but in any case dark chocolate stimulates endorphins that relieve pain in the brain. Don’t be fooled by any chocolate that has sugar as the number 1 ingredients.

  2. Bananas

    Known for their potassium levels, bananas also contain Magnesium and vitamin B6. Two ripe bananas may serve as an alternative to improve mood and cognition due to these essential nutrients that support healthy serotonin levels in the brain. Bananas contain serotonin themselves, but it may not cross the blood brain barrier, however may be able to stimulate serotonin receptors in the gut serving the same purpose.

  3. Oolong tea

    Many types of green and oxidezed teas from China are known for their theanine content, an amino acid that relaxes the brain and promotes a positive feeling and enhances memory and learning. Extracts of green tea, black tea, and oolong tea in water (tea) solution induced the GABA-elicited response, which showed that these teas contain GABA, whereas coffee does not. One study found that Oolong tea fortified with additinoal GABA led to a significant decrease in the immediate stress score and a significant improvement in Heart Rate Variability.

  4. Turmeric

    Among all the chemical constituents of turmeric, curcumin may be the most medicinal. Curcumin therapy is effective for maintaining better memory and mood function. A meta-analysis of curcumin studies showed that curcumin appears to be safe, well-tolerated, and efficacious among depressed patients.  If taking the whole spice, be sure to take turmeric with a meal as it requires fat for absorption, but the best way to take it is as a supplement because it’s been prepared to be absorbed and to work in the body for 8 hours.

  5. Fermented vegetables

    When vegetables are fermented using bacteria, enzymes, salt and whey they generate more lactobacillus species that are beneficial to the gut microbiome. The connection between the gut and brain has been well researched. While human studies connecting eating fermented food for treating or preventing depression and anxiety are sparse, animal studies show that relieving gut dysfunction by eating fermented veggies is beneficial for depression and anxiety.

  6. Purple berries

    The pigment called procyanthocyanidins that causes dark berries to be such beautiful colors of blue, red, burgundy and purples have antidepressant benefit associated with the central monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are also high in vitamin C, which helps the adrenals organs cope with cortisol, a hormone that is released during times of stress thereby lowering the effects of stress on the brain.

  7. Small fatty fishes

    Omega III is an essential fatty acid found in sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies and wild salmon. Omega III fatty acids help to support brain function, delivering fat soluble nutrients there and have been shown to heal the brain. When we look at all summarized studies they show that indicate low intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids )PUFAs) such as omega 3, also found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and more, may predispose certain individuals to depression and anxiety. It also shows that supplementation with Omega IIIs them may prevent and treat depression and anxiety disorders in certain individuals.

  8. Protein

    Not technically a food, but a macronutrient, results from a large national survey looking at protein consumption related to depression levels showed that men who eat more protein experience less depression and that protein consumption was protective against depression. This benefit was reversed in women, which may also be genetically linked. Protein is known for its high levels of branch chain amino acids and Tryptophan which promote serotonin in the brain. More protein consumption is also a way to lower glycemic load, exposing the brain to fewer sugar spikes that lead to higher stress and damage to the brain. It’s important to be educated in good sources of protein so to avoid making mistakes related to macronutrient function.

  9. Oats

    Research is less clear but oats contain beta-glucans, influencing many functions in physiology, immunology and gut microbiology that promote a good mood. It’s not only protein that is good for depression, like other slow-burning carbs lentils and beans, oats help to regulate serotonin levels, and keep your moods balanced. Those prone to anxiety may choose whole or steel cut oatmeal as their breakfast to self-medicate daily. Oats are also an excellent source of tryptophan, which widely promotes serotonin levels.

  10. Coffee

    Studies have found that above 59mg and below 508 mg of caffeine per day to be effective for reducing risk of depression. Caffeine caused a significant increase in Brain derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels increasing neurotransmitter release from pre and post-synaptic levels. While coffee doesn’t have a positive effect on GABA, like tea does, the caffeine effects seem to promote mental clarity and alertness effectively improving the mood below 4 cups per day.

Eat protein for breakfast and serotonin promoting fiber foods at the end of the day for a bigger brain reward. The fiber foods will provide calming to the brain before bed, while the amino acids found in the morning blood-sugar balancing proteins will get you energized for the day. Try the healthy cold cereals before bed instead of breakfast in this case.

For more mood support, check out our past and upcoming virtual workshops on Undervalued Techniques in Mental Health, Where Serotonin is Made and The Food for Mood Diet live presentation.