Can you eat your way to a better mood? More and more scientific research is saying so. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is important for your general health, so why should it be any different for your mental health? From depression-fighting seeds to anxiety-zapping greens, read about the best nutrients for your mood.
1. Sesame Seeds.
Good things come in small packages. The unassuming sesame seed is loaded with mood-boosting nutrients. Sesame seeds are on of the best vegetarian sources of zinc, a mineral that has been linked to depression and anxiety. One study found that zinc treatment lowered the depression and anger levels of young women. Other studies have suggested using the mineral as a treatment for depression.
A few bites of real, dark chocolate each day will help your mood and your tastebuds! Studies have suggested that dark chocolate reduces the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body; it may also relieve anxiety. Leesa recommends 85% organic dark chocolate from Vivani!
As if you needed another reason to love spinach! This leafy green is loaded with all sorts of mood-boosting nutrients, from depression-fighting folates (more on that later) to anxiety-easing magnesium. Spinach also contains plenty of zinc — studies have shown that, the less zinc you have in your body, the more likely you are to be depressed.
Yogurt is an excellent vegetarian source of vitamin B12, a vital nutrient for the formation of red blood cells. For reasons scientists aren’t exactly clear on yet, B vitamins seem to play a vital role in our mental health. Vitamin B12 deficiencies in particular have been linked to high rates of depression, and studies have suggested that strong intake of the vitamin may improve depression treatment outcomes. If your body doesn’t get enough of the stuff, it can actually lead to serious mental health issues. Because plants cannot make Vitamin B12, your best sources for the stuff are dairy products, eggs, seafood, and meat. Vegans and older adults are especially at risk of a Vitamin B12 deficiency, and may want to talk with their doctors about supplements or fortified foods.
Lentils, along with other foods rich in folic acid, are a key nutrient for treating depression. Like it’s B vitamin cousin, vitamin B12, plenty of research has linked low levels of folic acid to depression. It’s also thought that high levels of the vitamin will actually help anti-depressants work more effectively. Healthy carbs help boost serotonin levels.
Other Foods Rich in Folates: Pinto, black, navy, kidney & garbanzo beans; spinach, asparagus, turnip greens and broccoli.
The countries with the lowest rates of depression tend to have one thing in common: they also eat the most fish. Scientists think this is because fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that these polysaturated fats can improve your mood, and help treat depression and postpartum depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Though fish is probably your best source of omega-3 fatty acids, most healthy people can get all of it they need from flaxseeds and flaxseed oil. You can also check out supplements or sea vegetables if you are a vegan or a vegetarian.
Leesa recommends choosing organic when available.
By Katie Waldeck
Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.
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