One of the best places to look when you want to turn your mood around is your pantry, not your medicine cabinet. Our gut and brain are deeply connected by the vagus nerve which runs from the abdomen up to your head. This is the primary route that our gut bacteria use to pass on information to the brain. So, when there is toxicity in the gut from processed, sugar laden foods, it will pass through the body and into the brain. This can cause anxiety, depression, ADHD, brain fog, moodiness and other mental and behavioral disorders. Fluctuations in blood sugar from these foods can also cause major mood swings and anxiety. So, nourish your gut and gut flora and subsequently, your brain with flourish too. Happy stomach = happy brain!
So, I've put together a list of 5 edible pick-me-ups that will have you feeling calm and happy in no time. Happy Friday!
1. Turmeric: Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin, the antioxidant in turmeric that gives it it's bright yellow color, has neuroprotective properties that may enhance mood and possibly help with depression and anxiety. Try adding turmeric to your next stir fry or even scramble it into your eggs in the morning.
2. Leafy Greens: Veggies like spinach and swiss chard are rich in magnesium which naturally helps you relax. Veggies of all colors are powerful mood boosters because they send messages that help calm inflammation. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, "Some compounds in plants even promote the growth of new brain cells by promoting the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)." So, eat up!
3. Wild Salmon: Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to decrease inflammation and anxiety while also controlling cortisol (your stress hormone) and adrenaline. Bake salmon in the oven with some olive oil, lemon and salt for an easy, mood boosting dinner!
4. Fermented Foods: Fermented foods are incredible for restoring gut flora, and the healthier your gut is, the happier your brain will be! Try eating a spoonful of sauerkraut before dinner, sip on probiotic rich kombucha, or nosh on full fat kefir. These are some fantastic fermented foods that will make you feel just fab!
5. Chocolate: I saved the best for last. Yes, chocolate (dark, low sugar chocolate that is) has been shown to boost mood! Cocoa boosts serotonin levels which can help you feel calmer and more content. Shoot for 1.5 oz of dark chocolate with low sugar and no soy.
It's important to avoid sugar and processed foods whenever you can as they cause inflammation, which impairs signaling and can wreak havoc on your brain. These foods also make your insulin spike and then crash which can cause you to feel cranky, moody and hangry. Nobody likes that! So, set up the perfect mood boosting dinner tonight. Bake some wild salmon in the oven, sauté spinach in butter and turmeric, sip on kombucha with your dinner and finish up with a little bit of dark chocolate for dessert! Guaranteed you'll feel like a rockstar.
Sources: Dr. Mercola Can Food Affect Mood?, Turmeric for Depression by Dr. Andrew Weil, Mind Body Green "13 Foods to Help Ease Anxiety and Stress", Mind Body Green "6 Things People Get Wrong about Eating for Brain Health"