Eating right is good for your heart and your cholesterol levels. But did you know that certain foods can also have a significant impact on emotional health?
Here are the foods that have been shown to help mood:
- Chocolate. A Swiss study showed that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced stress hormones, including cortisol, in people who were highly stressed. Two points to emphasize – the amount of chocolate consumed was relatively small and the experiment was done with DARK chocolate (which is high in polyphenols and other antioxidants thought to be responsible for the emotional effect).
- Whole food fiber. Another study showed that people who followed a very low carb, high protein diet experienced more depression, anxiety and anger as compared to those who ate a whole food high carb diet high in whole grains, beans and fruit. The researchers suspect that healthy carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Of course, it’s also possible that avoiding carbs is hard and that makes us testy!
- Antioxidants. People who eat a diet rich in whole plant-based foods are less likely to report feeling depressed as compared to those who eat lots of desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables and folate, a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and dark green vegetables like spinach, have been shown to affect the neurotransmitters that impact mood.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3s – like those found in fatty fish, walnuts and flax - boost dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals intimately connected to mood. (Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression, aggression and suicidal tendencies, while dopamine is a “reward” chemical that the brain releases in response to pleasurable experiences, such as eating or having sex.)
- Saffron. Saffron has been shown to have antidepressant effects comparable to the antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac®) and imipramine (Tofranil®). Researchers believe that the spice works by “the same mechanism as Prozac,” helping to make the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin more available to the brain.
Step One Foods were not specifically designed to affect mood, but as it turns out, they deliver many of the nutrients that help to improve emotional health. Just another great reason to have that Dark Chocolate Crunch Bar!