Those winter blues setting in? Are any foods natural mood boosters? Yes! Try eating like a Spaniard, an Italian or a Greek. In a study of more than 11,000 people, those who stuck to a Mediterranean diet scored higher on markers of mental health than their counterparts who ate a more Western diet (1). How to eat the Mediterranean way? Pack your diet with fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Use olive oil instead of saturated fats like butter. Eat fish more frequently than red meat, and for all you wine lovers, drinking about 1 cup of red wine daily is also a perk of the Mediterranean diet.
Though researchers couldn’t pinpoint what exactly about the diet boosted participant’s mental health they suspect omega-3 fats (found in oily fish), B vitamins and folate contributed.
Two other “foods” with some mood boosting promise are the spice turmeric and green tea. Turmeric contains a polyphenol called curcumin has been linked to a better mood (2). In one animal study, curcumin worked as well on stress-induced mood changes as an antidepressant. In fact, curcumin has many benefits. Check out my blog about turmeric and curcumin. Similarly there’s a polyphenol in green tea—EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate)—that may alleviate stress and depression. People who drank 4 or more cups of green tea daily, in an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study (3), were 44% less likely to have depressive symptoms than those who drank just 1 cup a day (2 to 3 cups was also beneficial).
Bottom Line: Don’t disregard the old-school advice to exercise and stay social, but food matters too. Cozy up with a mug of green tea, cook a delicious curry dish, and pack your refrigerator and pantry with all the fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains you can.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RD
Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Content courtesy of Eating Well magazine
1. Henriquez Sanchez, P et al. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet and quality of life in the SUN Project. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1012 Mar;66(3):360-8.
2. Gomez-Pinilla, F, Nguyen, T. Natural mood foods: The action of polyphenols against psychiatric and cognitive disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2012 May;15(3):127-133.
3. Niu, K et al. Am J Clin Nutr. Green tea consumption is associated with depressive symptoms in the elderly. 2009 Dec;90(6):1615-22.