Been feeling a little down in the dumps? Or maybe even just a little blah? There are many external, and internal, factors that regulate and affect your mood, but it turns out that your diet might actually be partly to blame for how you feel. Recent research has shown that loading up on the right nutrients can combat stress, alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, fight depression and greatly improve your mood. Does the idea of that make you smile? Us, too.
Researchers in a clinical study referred to as the SMILES trial split a group of 70 people with depression and poor diets into two groups. One group received no formal therapy but simply began eating a Mediterranean-style diet made up of healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruit, olive oil, seeds and nuts, fish, eggs and protein-rich dairy. The other group continued eating unhealthily, munching on processed food, sweets and salty snacks but met regularly with a support group.
Three months into the trial, the first group of healthy eaters exhibited far fewer symptoms of depression than the junk food aficionados. Seemingly miraculously, more than one third of the healthy eaters no longer met the clinical criteria for depression. Now that’s food for thought.
We’re bringing you seven of the best foods to help reduce anxiety, calm stress, fight depression and improve your mood overall.
- #1. Chocolate. You already knew this one without us telling you, right? Finally, science is getting behind your evening chocolate habit. Research has shown that eating ¼ ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduces stress hormones like cortisol in those with high stress levels. Chocolate is high in antioxidants, which could be why it’s so good for you.
- #2. Green tea. Even without its inherent stress-relieving properties, the ritual of brewing and sipping a warm cup of tea can feel calming. A Japanese study has shown that drinking two or three cups of green tea a day is linked to reduced depression symptoms, possibly due to mood-boosting nutrients like L-theanine.
- #3. Oysters. Who needs an aphrodisiac when you have something that will pick up your mood? The high levels of zinc found in oysters help to ease anxiety as well as improve sleep quality. We are pretty cranky when we’re tired, so better sleep equals better moods.
- #4. Leafy greens. Spinach! And kale! And chard! Oh my! All of these fantastic leafy greens (and more) are chock full of magnesium, which helps reduce anxiety. They also boost brain health, making sure your noggin runs properly.
- # 5. Herring. Now this is good news for Dutchies. Fatty fish like herring, mackerel, tuna and salmon can help lower anxiety and boost your mood because of their impressive levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient our bodies can’t produce naturally. The Omega-3s alter dopamine and serotonin, which can grealty improve your mood.
- #6. Blueberries. If you’re looking for the fruit with the highest level of antioxidants, you probably already have them in your fridge: blueberries. They are packed with flavonoids, which help regulate mood, protect the brain from aging and improve memory. Violet Beauregarde doesn’t look too bad now, does she?
- #7. Probiotics. Ok, ok. So this isn’t exactly a food in and of itself, but probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut are incredibly important for keeping your gut bacteria in check. Numerous studies have shown that balanced gut bacteria leads to better moods.