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The winter holiday season can be tough for many reasons. Shorter days can translate into sour moods (Seasonal Affective Disorder is real), and holidays mean lots of eating and drinking, indulging more in sugary foods and booze. We all know the impact that diet can have on health, both positively and negatively, but diet also has a profound effect on mood. If you’re feeling blue, add these good mood foods to your diet.

Good Mood Foods

  • Good fats: Fat is essential, so if you’re still fat phobic, now is the time to educate yourself. Your brain is more than 70 percent saturated fat, and your cell membranes need fats to remain flexible so that nutrients can get in and out. Good fats include olive oil, coconut oil, butter/ghee, fermented cod liver oil, and omega 3 fatty acids. The omega 3 essential fatty acids are “essential” because you must get them from diet–the body doesn’t make them. Omega 3s are often deficient in our diets because we’re accustomed to using refined, poor quality vegetable oils that are higher in the omega 6 fatty acids. Too much omega 6 can lead to inflammation while the omega 3s prevent inflammation, improve mood & cardio function, and even reduce pain. So eat up! Best sources include wild salmon, sardines, grass fed beef, organic soy free eggs, walnuts, and leafy greens like spinach. I like Nordic Naturals fish oil for extra omegas.
  • Dark chocolate and cacao nibs. I’ve written about dark chocolate as a superfood. Milk chocolate doesn’t have the same effect, folks. Dark all the way, 70 percent or higher. Chocolate contains feel good chemicals that can boost feelings of well being, and it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that triggers the release of serotonin, a feel good neurotransmitter. Chocolate also contains antioxidants and is generally good for your cardiovascular system, so eat up to an ounce daily. Products to try: Green & Black’s 85 percent dark and Artisana Cacao Bliss. This stuff is heavenly. Spread on fruit, use in smoothies or eat with a spoon (my preferred method).
  • Starchy carbs enhance the release of serotonin, which explains why you may crave sweets when you’re feeling down. Instead of reaching for the ice cream and foods high in refined carbs (like sugar), choose healthy carb-rich foods like sweet potatoes with coconut butter or other root veggies. My clients report better sleep when they have a small starchy carb snack like 1/2 sweet potato with coconut butter before bed.
  • There is some evidence that bananas, avocados, turkey and dairy products enhance relaxing and mood-boosting tryptophan.
  • Oysters are high in zinc, a mineral in which we are chronically deficient. Great source of vitamin B12 too, which helps to regulate our stress levels and nervous system. There’s not a ton of scientific proof that oysters are an aphrodisiac, but extra B and zinc will make you feel good.

Bad Mood Foods

Avoid refined sugar, which will jack your blood sugar and lead to a later crash, leaving you cranky or tired. I also recommend that you avoid white flour, wheat, and gluten-containing foods, which cause inflammation and also break down into sugar in the body. Avoid pasteurized dairy products, which have been heated during the pasteurization process, killing all the beneficial enzymes & nutrients. Anything processed and packaged and corn syruped may give you a temporary boost, but rest assured it will be followed by a mood-crash, so step away from the Cheeto’s and Oreos.

Read Julia Ross’s The Mood Cure for more on good mood foods.

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