Written by Nicole Dossantos, Editor for The Active Times
Your diet has a tremendous effect on your overall health and wellbeing; especially now during the winter months, when the winter blues is hovering and the likelihood for depression is on the rise.
What do you do when you’re stressed out and feeling down? Do you raid your refrigerator and snack on everything in sight? If so, don’t be embarrassed, you’re not alone. According to research by Harvard Health Publications, stress causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol – a hormone that increases appetite and may ramp up the motivation to eat.
Prevent yourself from eating unhealthy foods like potato chips and sweets by stocking your fridge with healthy foods that help boost happiness and fight depression. For instance, nuts – Brazil nuts, walnuts, and cashews – are the perfect snacking options. Cashews will “give you a healthy dose of the antidepressant amino acid tryptophan, which is what your body needs to be able to produce serotonin,” Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and president of Raw Generation, says.
Serotonin plays a major role in the way we feel. “It’s one of your brain’s main mood-managers and low levels lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger,” says Jessica Rosen, certified holistic health coach and president of Raw Generation.
“An excellent way to even out and boost your mood is to eat a handful of cashews. It’ll give you a healthy dose of the antidepressant amino acid tryptophan, which is what your body needs to be able to produce serotonin.
“There’s a strong link between folic acid deficiencies and depressive disorders,” Rosen says. “Spinach is packed with folic acid.” If you’ve been prescribed antidepressants, folate may help them work more efficiently, she says. “Spinach also offers a substantial amount of magnesium which is responsible for the reactions in the brain that make you feel energized.”
Therefore, eating more spinach will help fight depression, improve concentration, and make you feel less sluggish, she adds.
“A huge portion of your brain is made up of fatty acids, but your body doesn’t produce them on its own,” Rosen says. That’s why wild-caught salmon – salmon caught in its natural environment – is one of the best foods for boosting happiness it’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acid content, she adds. Possible symptoms of omega-3 deficiency include depression, anxiety, and a lack of mental clarity, she says. “Plus salmon is packed with more than twice the vitamin B12 you need each day.”
Raw Cacao or Dark Chocolate
“In high doses, raw cacao can induce mild feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and reduced social inhibitions,” Rosen says. “Just a small serving causes the brain to release feel-good endorphins, boosts serotonin levels, and increases blood-flow to the brain.”
Regular consumption of energizing cacao (or dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao) has been shown to improve cognitive function/memory and reduce stress hormones, she adds.
“Strawberries are full of stress-relieving anthocyanins which protect the brain’s neurological health,” Rosen says. “They also offer an abundance of brain-boosting nutrients like folate and vitamins A and C, helping to prevent against brain degeneration.” Eating more strawberries increases the amount of serotonin your brain produces, which in turn promotes a sense of well-being and relaxation, she adds.