4 Mood-Boosting Foods To Eat When You Need a Pick-Me-Up
It's no secret that your diet significantly impacts your health. The foods and beverages you consume daily affect your risk of developing several health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Diet also plays a major role in fitness by fueling your workouts for optimal performance and recovery. While you're likely well aware of the importance of diet for your physical health, you may be surprised to learn that there are mood-boosting foods you eat that are rich with vitamins and nutrients that can impact your mood and mental health, and even help you mitigate some symptoms of depression and anxiety.
It often feels like nothing can cheer you up when you're in a bad mood. You can tell yourself to "snap out of it," but that never does the trick. If you can relate, you're not alone. Nearly 10% of U.S. adults experienced a mood disorder in the past year and an estimated 21% of Americans will experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives, reports the National Institute of Health (NIH). That's why understanding nutrition's influence on your mental well-being is essential for helping regulate your mood and keeping depression and anxiety at bay.
Fortunately, boosting your mood can be as easy as making simple tweaks to your diet. That's why we chatted with Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Body Beautiful Miami, to get the scoop on the best mood-boosting foods to help pick you up next time you're in a funk.
Read on to discover which foods can lift your spirits when you need it most. Also, for more information on the correlation between your eating habits and mood, be sure to check out This Eating Habit May Improve Your Mood, New Study Suggests.
Get your vitamin B12
B12 is a remarkable nutrient. Not only does it boost mood and combat depression, but it also increases energy, aids in red blood cell formation, supports bone health, prevents birth defects, and improves brain function. Including more B12-rich foods in your diet can help put some pep in your step.
"Mood-boosting foods that contain B12 include meat, eggs, dairy, fortified cereals, and fish," explains Gomer. "Also, with fish you get a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids for an extra brain boost."
Pick your dopamine
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that's involved in the "reward center" of your brain and mood regulation. When your brain has adequate dopamine, you feel happy, alert, focused, and motivated. However, when dopamine is out of balance, you may experience mood swings, demotivation, and lethargy. Fortunately, by eating foods containing the amino acid L-tyrosine, your body has the building blocks necessary to synthesize dopamine. Foods containing L-tyrosine vary widely, ranging from almonds and lima beans to watermelon and coffee.
"My favorite recommendation is coffee since it causes your body to increase the level of dopamine in your brain, which can make you feel happier," Gomer suggests.
Go for folate
"Oysters, mussels, and other seafood have been shown to act like natural antidepressants, along with food high in folate—the natural form of vitamin B9—including leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts," says Gomer.
Scientific research backs up Gomer's statement. For example, a 2017 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that participants suffering from depression had lower levels of folate—the natural form of vitamin B9, which also helps form DNA and supports protein metabolism.
Soak up some vitamin D
Vitamin D is often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," and for good reason. This nutrient is produced by your skin when absorbing sunlight. According to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, low vitamin D status is associated with a higher risk of depression, negative emotions, and quality of life. Also, your brain contains many vitamin D receptors, indicating it plays a critical role in cognitive function and mental health.
While not many foods contain vitamin D, you can aim to get 15 –20 minutes of sun exposure per day or take a daily supplement providing between 800 to 2,000 international units (IU). Fortified non-dairy milks and orange juice are your best bet for getting vitamin D in your diet.
"Get outside, soak up some sun, and breathe in the fresh air. Doing so increases your vitamin D levels and serotonin in your brain to boost your mood," Gomer advises.
However, it's important to note that you should also, talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements.