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Jena DeMoss: Good mood food

April is Stress Awareness Month. Managing stress can be challenging at times. Indulging in sweets can sometimes bring immediate satisfaction but may also bring negative effects like a sugar crash or irritability. Are there specific foods that can improve your mood or relieve stress?

Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in brain function and that deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids may be linked to mental health problems. Some research has suggested that increased consumption of omega-3 fats in the diet may reduce depression symptoms. To boost your omega-3 fatty acid consumption, add these foods to your diet: salmon, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed or a fish oil supplement. It is always best to consult with your health care provider if you have any questions about adding more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.

Even though they are mainly recognized for their digestive benefits, probiotics can also play a role in increasing mood and overall well-being. Research has suggested that having a healthy gut is important in maintaining a healthy mood. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, Kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, pickled vegetables and apple cider vinegar.

Whole grains are an important source of B vitamins, vital for brain health and function. B vitamins that regulate mood are vitamin B1 (thiamin), important for turning glucose into energy; vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), needed for learning and memory; vitamin B6, which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin; and last – but definitely not least – vitamin B12, involved in the productions of serotonin and dopamine, also known as the “happy” or “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. Whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, wild rice and 100% whole-grain bread, to name a few.

Loading up on green leafy vegetables can boost your mood. Green leafy vegetables are loaded with yet another B vitamin known as folate. Research has shown a connection between low folate levels and depression symptoms. Eat dark green leafy vegetables if you are feeling a little blue.

Moderate caffeine consumption may have an effect on your mood as well. For me, just smelling coffee brewing in the morning brightens my day. Caffeine has been shown to release the “feel-good” chemical dopamine in the brain. However, moderation is key with caffeine; over-consumption could have negative effects, including irritability and sleeplessness. Moderate consumption would include up to 300mg daily for most healthy adults.

Last, the sunshine vitamin known as vitamin D is naturally made in the body when exposed to sun’s ultraviolet rays. Vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for depression in older adults. Vitamin D is important in maintaining a healthy level of serotonin in the brain for influencing mood. Most Midwesterners are vitamin D deficient in the colder months when the sun is farther away from the Earth. Supplementation may be necessary; consult with your health care provider if you have any concerns. Foods rich in vitamin D include canned salmon with the bones, cheese, egg yolks and foods fortified with vitamin D like milk or orange juice.

Small changes in your diet can make big differences with mood, anxiety and even stress. Always consult with your health care provider prior to making any drastic changes to your diet. These foods may not only boost your mood but many of them may benefit your over-all health.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.