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The Connection Between Nutrition and Mental Health: Foods That Boost Your Mood

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It’s time to reflect on your eating habits, especially that bowl of ice cream you eat every night. While we know donuts and cookies are incredibly tasty, we also know that eating them on a regular basis isn’t great for your mental and physical health. 

If you’ve been feeling sluggish and blue, there’s a good chance that an adjustment to your current diet could improve things. 

How is your diet linked to your mood?

Even though you may not want to hear it, following a well-balanced, healthy diet can help you be more alert. In addition, consuming foods high in certain nutrients can support your brain health and function. Diets that are high in refined sugars and carbohydrates can cause impaired brain function and a lowered mood. 

By adding certain foods into your diet, and maybe cutting back on others, you can actually improve your energy and productivity levels, and mood. There have been several studies, including this one, that reveal nutrient deficiencies in those who are struggling with depression. Research suggests that those who have mental health disorders often have deficiencies in omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, zinc, B vitamins, amino acids, and other minerals. 

Simply put, think of your brain as a car and food as fuel. Foods that are rich in minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins will nourish your precious brain and protect it from oxidative stress. This oxidative stress is a form of waste and can damage cells. Like your car, your brain need and deserves the best fuel in order to function properly. 

By filling your body with “cheap fuel” or unhealthy foods, it won’t have what it needs to function. This can lead to your body’s dysregulation of insulin, inflammation, and a worsening of mental health disorders like anxiety, stress, and depression. 

How to incorporate mood-boosting foods into your routine

The good news is that you don’t have to completely overhaul your current diet, unless it’s solely fast food with no vegetables ever gracing your plate. We have some helpful tips and tricks to help you incorporate healthier foods into your diet without having to feel deprived:

Choose good carbs

Unfortunately, not all carbs are created equally. There are “bad” carbs like processed white bread and pastries, and “good” carbs like whole grain bread and pastas. Instead of reaching for the box of Corn Pops or Captain Crunch next time you visit the grocery store, opt for whole grain Cheerios or a granola made with rolled oats and nuts. These will be much more nutrient-dense and provide your body with the energy needed to slay the day. 

Eat the rainbow

Consuming more fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, will have an impact on your overall health and mood. While you may be tempted by the same vegetables and fruits every time you visit the produce aisle, try to mix it up and go for items that are red, orange, and yellow in colour. 

Go fresh

Instead of eating frozen meals or takeout on weeknights, consider meal-prepping on the weekends so that you have a healthy, fresh meal waiting for you after work. The less processed foods that you consume, the better you will feel. 

Reconsider your snacking habits

Even though sugary granola bars and cheddar-covered popcorn tastes great, there’s very little nutritional content found in these items. Snacking on mood-boosting foods like nuts, especially Brazil nuts as they contain selenium, dark chocolate, raspberries, dried mango, and hard-boiled eggs will serve you much better in the long run. 

Healthy and delicious foods that deserve a spot on your grocery list

  • Dark chocolate – releases mood-boosting compounds such as theobromine, caffeine, and N-acylethanolamine when consumed.
  • Fatty fish – Fish like salmon and albacore tuna are rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Bananas – When eaten with something containing fiber, bananas can stabilize your blood sugar, leading to better mood control.
  • Oats – These mighty whole grains slow one’s digestion of carbohydrates, keeping energy levels stable.
  • Berries – Because berries like blueberries and raspberries are high in antioxidants, they hold the power to manage inflammation associated with some mood disorders.
  • Nuts – Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts are all sources of zinc and selenium, which are very important for brain function.
  • Legumes – Beans and lentils are a great source of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. They are also high in plant-based iron and low iron can contribute to irritability and depression. 


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Rachel Moore
Rachel Moore
As a passionate word wrangler, Rachel finds too much joy when writing about food, wine, health and wellness, dating, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content. If you’ve got a story to tell, she can help you find the words. When she’s not working, Rachel can be found hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, or getting too emotionally invested in a dessert from Whole Foods. She is a born and raised Vancouverite, which means she loves the mountains and wears a lot of lululemon.

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