5 ways to boost your mood with food
Feeling a little down lately? In my work with eating disorders, the effects of inconsistent nutrition, malnutrition, substance abuse or co-occurring mood disorders is prominent. Low mood, irritability, brain fog and difficulty concentration can all be an effect of malnutrition and lead to low mood. If the above sounds like you, here’s 5 ways to boost your mood with food:
1. Eat regularly
Simple, but this can’t be emphasized enough. The brains preferred fuel source is glucose- produced by breaking down carbohydrates. The first step in balancing your mood is ensuring your brain is getting regular consistent nutrition. Work towards eating every 2-3 hours, this will give your metabolism a boost, provide regular glucose (energy) to your brain & body, and prevent a sudden swing in hormones.
2. Keep it Simple Sweetheart
One of the most common barriers I hear to preparing meals and snacks when struggling with low mood is simply the lack of motivation to do so. It can be hard to find the energy to wash dishes, think of meals, shop for food when your feeding overwhelmed. Keeping it simple and relying on quick prep, ready to eat options can be supportive in the short term. Staple options can include: bread for sandwiches, nut butters, single serving yogurts, cereal, snack packs and frozen meals are all quick and involve minimal effort
3. Get those Omegas
While the research is still growing, there is a large body of evidence pointing towards the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids and a lower prevalence of depression. Omega 3 fatty acids play a critical role in the function of the central nervous system, so boosting your intake of omega 3 rich foods may serve to boost your mood. Omega 3’s are found in: fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, harring, and plant based sources such as walnuts and flax seed.
4. Choose Dopamine rich foods
Dopamine is a neurotransimitter affecting the mood and pleasure centers of the brain and is commonly known as the “happy hormone.” There is some literature suggesting that increasing intake of protein rich foods (which help produce dopamine) may help boost production of the neurotransmitter. Including protein rich foods such as: eggs, dairy products such as milk cheese, yogurt, omega 3 rich fish and nuts and seeds may help give you a happy boost.
5. Boost your Vitamin D
You may be surprised to know that many people in the US are deficient in vitamin D. There is a significant evidence that low vitamin D levels are correlated to depression and other mental health disorders. Increasing your consumption of vitamin D rich foods such as mushrooms, fortified foods, fatty fish (there’s a theme here- more fish!), and egg yolks in addition to increasing your time outside to around 15 minutes a day can help boost your vitamin D levels. You can request a vitamin D level test through your primary care provider.