Have you ever felt like you were in a funk? Without any reasonable excuse, your mood seems to be flat. Talking yourself into a good attitude may not do the trick, but pair positive vibes with the right foods, and it may help. Food alone is not a cure for depression or guaranteed to put you in a better mood instantly. However, dietary changes can modify the brain’s function, leading to an altered attitude. It’s called “hangry” for a reason.
One of the top candidates for the sudden decline in mood is a drop in blood sugar. Typically, you may reach for a sugary snack to boost your energy and mood. This may work in the short term by sending your mood soaring, but it is almost always followed by a depressing drop which can leave you feeling tired and agitated. As a registered dietitian, I know snacking on low nutrient and processed foods is not a practical solution in the long term.
Improve your health and mood by following these tips:
Eat every three to four hours. Going long periods without food eventually leaves your brain and body running on fumes. Divide and conquer your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day to provide a constant fuel source, avoiding dips in blood sugar and mood.
Happy people eat whole grains. Foods like soda, candy, and fruit juices can cause sudden spikes and dips in your blood sugar, which leave you feeling cranky and exhausted. Choose smart carbohydrates with fiber and B-vitamins like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, which digest more slowly, keeping your blood sugar and mood more stable.
Anchor each meal with lean protein. Protein combined with high-fiber foods can slow the absorption of sugar in your blood, causing your mood to stay anchored. Eat a variety of protein foods each day like seafood, nuts, and beans and lean meat, poultry, low-dairy, and eggs. Don’t forget the protein at snack time—pair fruit with nuts or Greek yogurt. Munch on steamed edamame or couple a string cheese with air popped popcorn.
Get more Omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers have found an optimistic connection between omega- 3s found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts and possible protection against depression. While more research is needed, there are heart-healthy benefits to eating foods rich in omega-3s. Eat fish 2 to 3 times per week, top yogurt or salads with walnuts, and add flaxseeds to smoothies or baked goods.
Be diligent and get enough Vitamin D. Research from the University of Toronto noted that people who suffered from seasonal depression tended to improve as their vitamin D levels increased over the ordinary course of a year. Keep your vitamin D intake adequate by eating the recommended three servings of fortified dairy and getting 15 minutes of the direct midday sun daily. You can boost your mood, by eating near a window, choosing to sit outside while dining, or getting fresh air in between responsibilities.
Fellowship with food. Meals are best when shared with others. Making sure you eat is step one. Get extra nourishment by putting down the devices, stepping away from the desk, and engaging in fellowship. Schedule dinner dates, lunch dates, or even be intentional about having breakfast with the family before a busy day. Destress a get-together by organizing a potluck or keeping it simple with burgers and sides. The point is to mix and mingle while refueling with good food.
Food alone will not always defeat the mundane blues, but a consistent approach to fueling your body will hush your inner grouch!
Real talk: May is known across America as Mental Health Awareness Month. The Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) encourages those experiencing mental health or substance abuse problems to seek help. Through a new campaign called “Behind the Mask,” DMH encourages individuals not to hide “behind the mask” but to understand that the pandemic and the world’s current climate have affected nearly everybody across the state and realize that these issues have affected are not only common but treatable. To learn more, visit www.behindthemaskms.com.
Cover photo provided by The Reef in Biloxi, MS Facebook page. The Reef has exceptional outdoor dining, and plenty of omega 3 rich fish no the menu!