Chocolate makes us happy. Something that is true for so many of us. Had a hard day at the office, your boss yelling at you, some unfriendly waiters in the cafeteria, the busdriver shut the door right in front of your nose..., any of these mood killers cause many people to break their diet plans and just indulge limitlessly in whatever their fridge offers. Sounds familiar to you? You are not alone.
It is true that food can cause mood enhancing hormones like serotonin to be released. A survey including 9125 adults showed people who are obese are 25 percent more likely to have mood and anxiety disorders. It has also been shown that obese people are less likely to abuse other substances like alcohol or illegal drugs, which enhances the statement that they try to cope with food.
Whereas some soul food every now and then helps us to feel better, a chronic eating disorder should always be treated by a professional. Permanent overeating can lead to severe conditions like metabolic diseases, inflammation or arthrosis.
Which type of foods can help to boost your mood?
There is a variety of healthy and tasty foods that have been shown to interact with the release of serotonin, our happiness hormone.
This group of vegetables should definitely be on your plate every day (several times). They are full of health benefits. Spinach, swiss chard, endives… Apart from Vitamin C, K and Magnesium they are very high in Vitamin B9, also known as Folate or Folic acid. Vitamin B9 deficiency has been related with depression.
Other good sources of Vitamin B9 are:
Salmon comes with a load of heart protective and anti inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. On top of that salmon is one of the few foods that is high in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood swings and depression.
Vitamin D, apart from taking it with food, is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. 20 minutes a day are enough.
- Eggs & Milk:
Eggs and milk are high in Tryptophan, which is an amino acid that has been shown to increase Serotonin levels in the brain.
Although scientists are not totally clear on this fact because it seems that a competitive transport mechanism amongst the amino acids leads to a very low or almost no transport of Tryptophan to the brain, there is evidence that suggests that for example hydrolysed egg had a positive effect on mood in participants.
It’s not just the fabulous taste of chocolate that makes us feel happier. Chocolate contains antioxidants and endorphin enhancer which can have a positive effect on our mood.
It is important to choose a good source, rich in cacao (more than 70%) and organic.
- Our Gut Microbiome:
There is strong evidence for the so called gut-brain axis, which means that the bacteria that lives in our gut has a huge impact on our mental well-being by influencing serotonin levels. So you better treat your bacteria well:)
Complex carbohydrates and prebiotics are power food for our little friends in there, whereas sugar, processed foods, artificial and natural sweeteners are destroying them.
Food design has a pivotal role in defining the quantity and type of material reaching the gut microbiota. Powerfood for a healthy gut includes:
- Fermented products like kimchi or sauerkraut
- Non starchy vegetables like tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, artichokes and leak
- Non starchy fruits like avocados, apples, cherries, oranges and grapefruit
- Chickpeas and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
What you should definitely cut out for a healthy gut are:
- Processed and fried foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sugar and processed carbs
- Hydrogenated fats
- Starchy fruit and veggies such as bananas and potatoes
So what you eat has an impact on how you feel. But it is not only what you eat, there are other 3 really important natural food enhancer that we want to share with you before finishing this article.
- Positivism and being social
Regarding the WHO, health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Positive people tend to be healthier and live longer. It also seems that positive people tend to socialize more. Social support is one of the most studied psychosocial factors in relation to health and disease. Low social support is associated with higher levels of stress and depression.
- Bright light
Exposure to bright light has been connected with enhanced mood. It is a standard treatment for seasonal depression. Apart from that it also reduces depressed mood in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder and in pregnant women suffering from depression. So go out and enjoy the sun. Your serotonin levels will appreciate it.
A comprehensive review of the relation between exercise and mood concluded that antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been clearly demonstrated. Physical exercise is be able to increase Serotonin levels and other endorphins and thus make you feel happier apart from the shaping benefit it has.