When I am stressed, I turn immediately to sweets—specifically chocolate. Or ice cream. Or some nice big hot out of the oven cookies. Any of them will make me feel better—at least in the short term. There is actually good reason why we reach for these foods when we’re feeling down. Carbs release serotonin and endorphins in your body. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood and endorphins are another type of feel-good chemical. However, although the refined carbs make you temporarily feel better, you end up with a sugar crash and the mood cycle starts all over again.
So what can you do to end the mood roller coaster? Eating your way to happiness is easier than you might think. By choosing complex carbs you can prevent the blood sugar crash that refined carbs inevitably cause. Complex carbs are a good choice to even your mood because their extra fiber slows digestion, which means your blood sugar level stays more stable and your energy doesn’t crash. Start your day off on the right foot with whole grain cereal, toast, or oatmeal. Breakfast eaters are shown to have more stable moods and higher productivity levels. If you think oatmeal is boring, try some oatmeal breakfast bars. You’ll feel like you’re eating dessert for breakfast, and how could you not be in a good mood after that? Maintain your good mood by keeping up your whole grain intake throughout the day with choices like brown rice and starchy vegetables.
Pair those fiber-rich whole grains with lean protein to keep you feeling happier longer. Some great mood boosting protein sources are omega-3 rich fish and nuts. Salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s protect the brain and have been shown to reduce depression by half. Walnuts and flax are other good sources of Omega-3, and they’re delicious as toppings for yogurt or oatmeal.
To steady your mood, make sure your meals and snacks include a mix of complex carbs, lean protein, and fiber. Don’t forget to include fruits and vegetables at every meal for an extra fiber boost. How do you eat to boost your mood?