If you’re feeling a little more irritable than usual lately, you’re not alone. Between busy schedules, and all the stressors going on in our day-to-day lives, there is a ton we can do to brighten our spirits and put that pep back in our step. Enter mood-boosting foods.
We’re sharing our top mood food picks that aren’t just healthy and delicious, but research suggests they may, in fact, play a role in our overall mood as well.
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#1 Raw Cacao
Chocolate fans rejoice — raw cacao (very different from those sweetened chocolate bars) has some pretty darn impressive properties.
Some studies have suggested that the flavonoids found in cocoa contain both cognitive and mood-supporting properties (heck, yes!) So go ahead and sprinkle some raw cacao nibs over your morning bowl of oatmeal, on top of an acai bowl, or enjoy mixed into homemade granola.
#2 Nuts & Seeds
Need a new healthy snack that doubles as a delicious mood-boosting food? Make a batch of homemade trail mix (recipe below) to stay full and nourished when snacking on the go.
Nuts and seeds, particularly peanuts, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, are rich in tryptophan, an important amino acid that plays a key role in the production of serotonin (the commonly known mood-supporting neurotransmitter). Tryptophan has been found to have a positive effect on overall mood, making these nuts and seeds an excellent addition to a well-balanced mood-boosting diet.
#3 Unsweetened Yogurt or Kefir
Not only does unsweetened yogurt make one of the most convenient snacks, but it can be added to smoothies for added creaminess, or made into a healthy yogurt parfait with some nuts and seeds and raw cacao nibs to satisfy a sweet tooth craving. So if you’re looking for a mood-boosting food that’s super easy to include in your diet, look no further than plain old unsweetened yogurt — need it dairy-free? Try coconut or almond yogurt.
Not only does it make an easy snack, but gut-supporting foods rich in probiotics may also help support a happier mood too — how? The gut-brain connection! Some research has suggested that the bacteria in the gut may not only play a role in digestion but our mood and overall energy too.
Unsweetened yogurt (or kefir if you can tolerate a bit of a tangier flavor) are great sources of gut-loving probiotics, so consider these “mood foods” for your healthy and balanced diet.
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Blueberries are a delicious “mood food” that happens to be one of nature’s sweetest treats. They sweeten up that bowl of oatmeal in the AM, make a delicious antioxidant-rich smoothie, or even make a tasty snack.
Plus, research has found that an antioxidant-rich diet may have a positive effect on both mood and cognitive function (yes, please!)
Thanks to the rich omega-3 fatty acid content, salmon makes a tasty mood-boosting food. The thing about these fatty acids is that the body cannot produce them on its own — we rely on food to get enough. They play a key role in brain health and some research has found that not getting enough may have a negative effect on mood.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get omega-3s in your diet, and if fatty fish just isn’t your thing, some great plant-based options include:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
Overnight oats anyone? Yep, they’re one of our favorite ways to enjoy breakfast on the go and one of our go-to mood-boosting foods. Oats wind up on our favorite list of mood foods thanks to the high fiber content — a bowl of oatmeal or a jar of overnight oats in the AM will help keep you full longer while being a great healthy and balanced breakfast to help support stable blood sugar levels.
Say goodbye to feeling hangry and reaching for that sugary snack between breakfast and lunch. A good, hearty breakfast to start your day is key to keeping your mood and energy levels high.
But, heads up — you want the plain old rolled oats, not the sugary pre-packed varieties. You can add your own sweetness with antioxidant-rich berries and some raw cacao nibs.
We couldn’t talk about mood-boosting foods without dishing the deets on at least one protein-rich plant-based food, and lentils happen to be one of our favorites — you can use them on salads, swap out beef and use in tacos or even in meat sauces.
Lentils are rich in B-vitamins which are key for mood and even stress. Plus, they happen to be nutritionally packed with iron and folate.
Full of stress-supporting B-vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, avocados are a delicious mood food to consider adding to your diet. This beloved super fruit is full of folate, a nutrient that when deficient, has been linked to depression.
Spread avocado on toast, mash into your favorite dip, top it on your sandwich or wrap, or simply enjoy by the spoonful!
We often think of vitamin C as the anti-aging ingredient in the fountain of youth, but did you know this nutrient has some major mood-boosting benefits? Vibrant fruits and veggies (such as grapefruit, bell pepper, and papaya) are some of the richest (and tastiest) sources of Vitamin C. And, since just one cup of papaya contains nearly 200% of the daily needs for Vitamin C, we’re loading up our diet with a tropical papaya feast! Best of all, papayas contain natural digestive enzymes and antioxidants.
#10 Green Tea
Ok so it may not be a food per se, but green tea is a mood-boosting beverage that’s worth every sip. Green tea is high in L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps promote a feeling of calm. And, according to research, drinking green tea not only reduced feelings of stress and improved sleep in students, but it also improved concentration and focus!
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3 Recipes Made With Delicious “Mood Food”
Ready to start adding some of these delicious foods to your diet? Here are three yummy and easy-to-prep recipes to get you started.
#1 Easy Mood-Booster Trail Mix
- 1 cup peanuts
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup raw cacao nibs
- ¼ cup unsweetened raisins
Step #1: Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine.
Step #2: Split into individual serving jars or bags to enjoy as a healthy grab-and-go snack.
#2 Cacao Berry Shake
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 tbsp raw cacao nibs
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 1 scoop of protein powder of choice
Step #1: Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
#3 Blueberry Banana Overnight Oats
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 sliced banana
- 1 cup blueberries
- Drizzle of raw honey for serving
Step #1: Start by adding the oats, milk, and chia seeds to a large glass jar and mix well. Set in the fridge overnight.
Step #2: The next morning, before serving, top with the almond butter, sliced banana, blueberries, and honey.
Step #3: Enjoy!
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Take Your Diet Up a Notch With Mood Food
While diet alone may not completely get rid of a bad mood, pairing healthy eating with plenty of time for self-care, daily movement, and better sleep may help you work towards feeling like the best version of you.
Ready to get started? Mix mood-boosting workouts and mood-boosting foods by getting your daily sweat in followed up with a post-workout Cacao Berry Shake (recipe above) — your overall mood and body will thank you!