During the period between 2005-2008, antidepressants were prescribed to more than one out of every ten Americans aged 12 and up.
This number is up by an astonishing 400% since 1988.
Whether or not you believe that antidepressants are being over-prescribed, it is clear that many Americans have issues with their mood and are looking for a solution.
What most people don’t realize is that the foods they eat on a daily basis can have a serious impact on their mood. Before you decide to take potentially dangerous prescription drugs, you should consider making a few changes to your diet.
Disclaimer: Some people with very serious depression may need to take drugs in order to gain relief. I’m not your doctor, but you should talk to yours first.
Principles Of Boosting Mood With Diet
Before I get into specific foods that benefit your mood, you should learn some of the principles of a mood boosting diet so that you can make educated choices on your own.
Principle #1: It’s All About The Nutrients.
There are a number of specific nutrients that are involved in mood regulating processes in your body.
Optimizing your intake of these nutrients is a great strategy if you want to improve your mood.
Omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, and calcium are a few, but there are a number of others.
Principle #2: Healthy Foods Tend To Be Best In The Long Term.
But unfortunately, they are not always the best choice in the short term.
For example, sugar is likely to make you happier right after consuming it, but it is a poor choice for long term mood benefits.
If you choose foods by how they make you feel immediately after eating them, you will most likely sabotage yourself.
Eating the healthy food option is a much better rule of thumb if you want to improve your mood for more than just an hour or two.
Principle #3: Everyone Is Different.
What works like a miracle for someone else may have no effect on you. Know yourself, and listen to your body.
If you add one of the foods I will be recommending into your diet for a couple weeks without changing anything else and you feel worse, stop.
I have serious doubts that the foods included here will worsen your mood, but anything is possible.
Take advantage of the information that works best for you and discard the rest.
Two Foods That Boost Your Mood
Here are a couple of foods that you can add to your diet right now to improve your mood.
Or other fatty fish.
Salmon are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, including easily absorbed ones like EPA and DHA.
There is some evidence linking low concentrations of omega-3’s to mood disorders.
Several studies have shown an inverse relationship between seafood consumption and prevalence of depression, and several more studies have shown omega-3 supplementation has a distinct antidepressant effect.
A 4 ounce serving of salmon also contains more than 100% daily value for vitamin B12. Low concentrations of vitamin B12 have been causally linked to depression.
If I had to pick one food to include more of in your diet if mood boosting is your goal, salmon would be it.
Other considerations: There is a big difference between farmed fish and wild fish. The nutritional value of farmed fish is pathetic compared to wild caught fish. If you can, go with wild caught Alaskan salmon. It’s going to cost a bit extra, but it’s worth it.
Salmon needs to be kept cold. Refrigerator temperatures are a little higher than optimal, so wrapping it in ice and changing the ice once or twice per day can extend the life of your salmon.
Store it at the bottom of the refrigerator where it is coldest. Or you can freeze it, and extend the shelf life for two to three weeks.
Many people are concerned about the mercury levels in fish. Luckily most fish, including salmon, contain large amounts of selenium. Selenium has protective effects against mercury, so the risks are at least reduced to some degree.
Unless you have certified organic or wild caught Alaskan salmon, removing the skin may reduce the risk posed by contaminants.
When cooking salmon, try to keep it moist and tender instead of dry.
Here is a recipe for salmon that uses an ideal cooking procedure.
Yogurt has two major components that can help with mood: calcium and beneficial bacteria.
One cup of yogurt contains 44.8% daily value of calcium. Calcium, consumed regularly, has been shown to improve the moods of people who had not been diagnosed with depression.
That is not to say that eating yogurt will immediately make you feel better. These studies had people consuming supplemental calcium daily for several weeks.
Yogurt is a fermented food, so it contains colonies of bacteria. Probiotic foods such as yogurt are being heavily researched now, and we can expect more positive effects to be discovered in the coming years.
Your gut contains the majority of your body’s serotonin receptors (serotonin is one of your “feel good" neurotransmitters), so it should not be surprising that there is research being done on probiotics and depression.
Due to the interplay of stress, hormones, inflammation, and levels of gut bacteria, some scientists would consider probiotics to be useful in those with major depressive disorder. In an intervention study, subjects who were initially depressed reported an improvement in mood after supplementation with a probiotic.
Other considerations: Some yogurts are pasteurized, meaning the bacteria that had been contained in it have been killed. If you want the full benefits of yogurt, you need that bacteria! Before buying yogurt, make sure it says “live active cultures” or something along those lines first.
Although I only mentioned two specific foods that improve your mood in this post, there are plenty of others.
Unfortunately, if you do a Google search on “top foods to improve your mood” or anything along those lines, you will find a lot of poor information.
Most of these pages simply copy each other, and the authors have not done their research. Be careful with the recommendations some of these authors make; some of the foods are good, but some will take you way off the mark.
Salmon and yogurt are both solid choices that you can include regularly in your diet starting today.
More important, however, is to remember the principles. Look for foods with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, eat a generally healthy diet, and listen to your body.
That is by far the best prescription for the blues.