Foods to Uplift Your Mood
Resolve to eat to keep your spirits high
Slow Weight Loss
4. If you are overweight, lose weight slowly but surely. Some
researchers advise that slow weight loss in overweight women can help to
elevate mood. Fad dieting isn't the answer, though. Depriving yourself of
calories and carbohydrates can bring on irritability.
5. Boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin -- a chemical I fondly call
the "feel-good" neurotransmitter -- communicates "happy"
messages to your brain. Basically, the more serotonin circulating in your
bloodstream, the better your mood. Quick, pass the serotonin! The other side to
this coin is that low levels of serotonin can lower mood and increase
aggression, according to some studies.
There are several components of food that may influence the serotonin levels
in our brains, including:
- Tryptophan. As more of the amino acid tryptophan enters the brain,
more mood-improving serotonin is made in the brain. Tryptophan is in almost all
protein-rich foods, but the way to get more of it is not necessarily to eat
these foods. Other amino acids are better at getting into the brain from the
bloodstream. Eating carbohydrates seems to help tryptophan's chances of
crossing the blood/brain barrier.
- Carbohydrates. The carbohydrate-serotonin connection can be a
double-edged sword. We do need carbs, especially those that come with
lots of fiber and other nutrients -- like whole grains, beans, fruits, and
vegetables. But Judith Wurtman, PhD, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology
researcher who is an expert on food and mood, suspects many women learn to
overeat carbohydrates (particularly snack foods) to make themselves feel
better. Of course, this leads to weight gain. Some researchers think
carbohydrate-rich meals affect our moods in other ways, perhaps because of
comforting feelings and memories we associate with eating these foods as
- Folic acid (folate). Too little folic acid in our diets can cause
lower levels of serotonin in our brains. Some studies suggest that taking
folate supplements (there's a day's supply in most multivitamins) and eating
folate-rich foods may help some people who suffer from depression. Folate-rich
foods include spinach, green soybeans, lentils, romaine lettuce, pinto beans,
black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, broccoli, asparagus, greens, orange
juice, beets, papaya, Brussels sprouts, and tofu.
- Alcohol. You don't have to be an expert to deduce that alcohol is
probably not a mood stabilizer and that you should avoid excessive amounts in
the interest of discouraging low moods. But there is also scientific evidence
pointing to a relationship between serotonin dysfunction, negative moods, and
Editor's Note: If you have persistent depression, don't rely on food to
improve your mood. Seek medical help from a professional such as a
psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. If you're not sure where to turn,
ask your doctor for a referral. Check your employee benefits for something
called the Employee Assistance Plan, which offers free counseling. Keep in mind
that depression is more treatable now than ever before, thanks to progress in
medications and counseling techniques.