Updated: Dec 23, 2022
By: Grace Buffa NBC-HWC, ERYT, LPTA
Don't you feel like you need social distancing from you refrigerator??
When we feel sad, we reach for a tub of ice cream. Our ‘comfort foods,’ are highly skewed. In order to feel better, we should be reaching for foods that are nutrient-rich. Shoveling in simple carbohydrates, refined sugars, and caffeine, will only worsen your mood. We should be consuming foods that offer a variety of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. The following ten foods will not only give your brain a boost, but will improve your overall health.
1. Whole Grains Carbohydrates have been deemed the enemy by many weight-loss diets. The reality is, we need carbohydrates, especially for optimal brain function. Whole grains have been shown to reduce mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Many whole grains contain high levels of tryptophan. This amino acid is crucial for the synthesis of serotonin, as well as melatonin.
The neurotransmitter serotonin, is known to lift mood and relax the body. Melatonin is responsible for our sleep cycles, which is vital for our mental health. They are also amazing for energy, reducing fatigue. This helps counteract some of the core symptoms of depression and anxiety, ensuring that your blood sugar is stable. Incorporate some of the following whole grains into your daily diet; barley, buckwheat, rye, wild and brown rice, quinoa, and millet.
2. Dark Chocolate Yes, that’s correct, chocolate. However, I’m not talking about your average gas station chocolate bar. Dark chocolate is highly beneficial for your brain health. The darker and purer the chocolate, the better. Dark chocolate contains tyrosine, which is linked to an increase of dopamine. Dopamine has a direct effect on our emotional well-being, and stimulates the pleasure centers in our brain. Time to get your chocolate on!!
3. Blueberries Blueberries provide so many benefits, so it’s no surprise that they are considered a ‘superfood.’ They are high in antioxidants, while help reduce levels of stress and anxiety. They are also packed with vitamin C, which helps lower cortisol.
4. Walnuts Nuts are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and protein. All of these are crucial for healthy brain function. The omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. As mentioned, tryptophan is essential for the synthesis of serotonin. Walnuts are packed with tryptophan, indirectly increasing serotonin levels. When these levels rise, we feel more relaxed, calm, and happy.
5. Avocado Although many believe avocado is a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit. Avocados are an excellent source of tryptophan, boosting relaxation. It is believed that cell death may trigger depression. The omega-3 fatty acids found in avocado are believed to reduce this cell death. Avocado is also high in protein, which triggers dopamine production. When individuals experience depression, they are believed to have a vitamin B-6 deficiency.
6. Spinach Dark leafy greens are highly beneficial for your overall health. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals, making them a great accompaniment to any meal. Spinach contains high levels of magnesium, which is one of the best minerals for anxiety. This is because it helps to maintain your cortisol levels. One cup provides you with 40% of your daily intake.
7. Fish Fish is referred to as ‘brain food,’ so it’s no surprise that it can reduce anxiety and improve mood. Although it is known to boost cognitive function, fish is also believed to help with mood disorders. Fish has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of essential fatty acids, have been linked to feelings of depression. Fish is also another source of tryptophan. *Wild caught not farm raised if possible.
8. Chickpeas Chickpeas are protein powerhouses, providing many benefits for your brain and overall health. These beans contain vitamin B1 (thiamine), which is directly related to both mood and increased cognitive function. Cognitive functioning, such as lack of motivation, focus, and attention tend to be symptoms of depression and anxiety. Vitamin B1 increases brain health overall. It also contains tryptophan, which promotes serotonin, improving mood and increasing one’s ability to sleep.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions... These are just a handful of foods that decrease stress, anxiety and depression. When you eat Whole Foods you are building a powerhouse of an immune system and mental well being.