As the days shorten and the weather darkens, our moods tend to slump as well. Discovering what triggers those negative feelings can make you aware of underlying issues and finally get you out of that funk. Many factors such as fatigue, stress, hunger (low blood sugar makes almost everyone cranky), or sadness may be the culprit. Any of these factors will zap your energy and ruin your mood. Although reaching for a glazed doughnut or a juicy burger may provide temporary emotional and hunger relief, here are some healthier (and more satisfying) options to help lift your mood.
My Top 5 Mood Boosting Foods:
Fish containing 0mega-3s such as salmon, sardines, herring, lake trout, mackerel, and albacore tuna have been shown to improve cognition and circulation to the brain, reduce inflammation, and help to reduce adrenaline and other hormones associated with anxiety. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish—particularly a fatty fish–at least two times a week. (See Salmon Taco recipe for quick, delicious, and mood boosting meal!)
Photo credit: Murphy Williams, Dig Foods
- 2 salmon filets, skin removed
- 2 lemons
- 1 Tbsp dill
- 1 Tbsp fresh basil
- ¼ cup of Greek yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- ½ a head of red cabbage, chopped
- ¼ of red onions, chopped
- ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Combine all ingredients for the cabbage slaw. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Season salmon with salt and pepper and the juice of 2 lemons. Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Add tortillas wrapped in tin foil the last 2-3 minutes to warm through.
- While the salmon cooks, chop fresh dill and basil. In a small bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt and olive oil. Add fresh herbs. Add more olive oil for a thinner sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the salmon and the tortillas from the oven, let the salmon cool, and then cut salmon into long strips. Place salmon into tortillas; add sauce, top with cabbage slaw, and serve.
Nuts and Seeds such as walnuts, chia, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds contain vitamin b12, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E. These foods have been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and help fight damaging free radicals that speed up the aging process and are linked to disease. Sunflower seeds also contain folate, which increases the production of dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical.
Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries contain potent phytochemicals like anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C to provide cell protection from stress hormones like cortisol and cancer-causing free radicals. These phytochemicals decreases inflammation, improve circulation, memory, and help to maintain healthy hair and skin (vitamin C boosts collagen production).
Milk contains phytochemicals, high-quality protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B12, and potassium. Milk has also been shown to boost mood by easing anxiety, soothing PMS symptoms, decreasing blood pressure, and increasing serotonin levels. Choose low-fat or skim milk.
Dark Chocolate is packed with iron, fiber, magnesium, copper, manganese, and phytochemicals called flavonols, catechins, and polyphenols to help improve memory and brain circulation and reduce stress hormones. Dark chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA) that promotes your brain to release endorphins, thus making you happier. However, dark chocolate contains caffeine, which may lead to sleep disturbances.
- High-quality carbs + lean protein + healthy fats = instant mood boost
- High-quality carbs: fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains
- Lean protein: poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, lean beef, beans
- Healthy fats: olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds (sunflower, chia, hemp, flax)
- Limit refined carbs—they raise your blood sugar quickly then leave you lethargic. Opt for whole grains instead; fiber helps slow digestion and normalizes blood sugar.
- Avoid trans-fat—found in many processed foods and has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, immune dysfunction, and impaired cognition.
Article written and recipe developed by:
UNF Graduate Student and Dietetic Intern