Food is a huge part of my life but I want it to make me feel my best and not trigger my anxiety and depression. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been focusing on learning about how our physical health is directly related to our mental health and I’ve been reading a lot about how certain foods affect our moods. I’m a huge foodie and one of my favorite things to do is try out a new restaurant or try new recipes and cook at home. As stressful as cooking is to some people, I actually find it very calming and therapeutic. I love creating a meal, feeding my friends and family and them loving whatever it is that I made. It truly is my favorite way to show my love to others…..through food!
So through my research, I found out what foods I should be incorporating into my everyday diet to improve my mood.
Dark Leafy Greens – My personal favorites are spinach, kale, broccoli, arugula, romaine lettuce, and mustard greens. There are a ton of benefits from adding dark leafy greens to your diet but it helps beat severe depression which has been linked to brain inflammation. Dark leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation so making it a habit of adding this to your diet can help improve your mood over time.
How to eat it: Add a handful of spinach or kale to your morning smoothie or add it to your breakfast omelette. I’ll also fry two eggs and put it over a bed of arugula and it makes for a quick hearty breakfast when I’m in a hurry.
Walnuts – Omega 3 fatty acids are major mood boosters and walnuts are one of the richest plant sources of omega 3’s. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to support brain function and reduce depression symptoms.
How to eat it: Top your salad with walnuts to add a little crunch or just grab a handful as a mid-day snack.
Berries – Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are chock full of cell repairing antioxidants which help fight against cancer and other illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
How to eat it: I love putting frozen berries in my smoothie everyday and it helps satisfy my sweet tooth craving. I also add blueberries to pancakes and top waffles with strawberries.
Avocados – Any excuse to eat avocado and I’m there! Avocados contain the healthy fats that help your brain to run efficiently.
How to eat it: I’ll put a whole one in my smoothies (makes them extra creamy), add it to my salad for lunch and of course avocado toast, yum! For an afternoon snack, I’ll mash up an avocado and eat it with jicama or carrots.
Tomatoes – Good thing I like tomatoes because they contain a ton of folic acid and alpha-lipolic acid which are amazing for fighting depression.
How to eat it: I almost always add tomatoes to my omelettes and salads. I especially like using cherry tomatoes because they are a little sweeter.
Onions – Because they contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants, they help reduce the risk of cancer in the digestive tract because of its high concentrations of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
How to eat it: 90% of the time when I cook, I’m making asian food and I always start by sautéing with garlic and onion. I find that it enhances the flavor of the other ingredients and just brings everything together. I also love adding red onions in my guacamole and mango and tomato salsa.
Mushrooms – I absolutely love mushrooms and I know that is not the case for some but seriously, mushrooms are such a great addition to so many recipes. But the true benefit of eating mushrooms is that they actually help lower blood sugar and when your blood sugar levels are evened out, you are in a much better mood. Have you ever felt your blood sugar dip because you havent eaten in a while? And then you start getting hangry (hungry + angry)? Yep, I have, many many times!
How to eat it: I almost always put mushrooms in my spaghetti sauce (the kids don’t even notice it), or I’ll slice it up, add it to my salad and eat it raw. But my favorite way to cook and eat mushrooms is sautéed in butter with shallots and served on top of a steak medium rare. Yum!
Beans – Beans are great at maintaining your blood sugar levels and help you feel fuller longer because your body digests them slowly. I admit, this is one food I need to be better at incorporating into my meals. I mean if I’m at Chipotle and there are beans there I’ll add it to my burrito, but I usually wont make it at home. I just really can’t get into but I need to work on that!
Seeds – Chia, Hemp or Flaxseeds. My particular favorite are chia seeds because they’re tiny and I can’t taste them when I add it to my smoothies or oatmeal. Chia seeds are packed with omega 3 fatty acids, they’re rich in anti-oxidants and are full of fiber. They are also really high in protein which should be able to help you lose weight. That’s a good enough reason for me!
How to eat it: I’ll add a heaping teaspoon to my morning smoothie or oatmeal. I’ve also added them to salad dressings, topped my salads with them and added them to my banana bread.
Apples – Because they are so high in antioxidants, apples help boost your brain and keep your brain (and body) healthy. Studies have also shown that apples can help prevent Alzheimer’s and protect against Parkinson’s disease.
How to eat it: I usually add half of an apple to my green smoothies to give it a little sweetness. As a snack, I’ll cut up apples and eat it with almond butter or spinach artichoke dip from Trader Joes..yum! And lastly, apple pie anyone?!!