We all have our go-to pick-me-ups—a beat-pumping Zumba class, a Taylor Swift song on repeat, that scoop (or three) of ice cream. Everyone needs that little boost every now and then—and food is one of the best ways to get it. Studies have shown that what you eat has a significant effect on how you feel, so here are seven foods to grab first when it’s time for your next pick-me-up.
You know that warm sensation of calmness and satisfaction after a hearty Thanksgiving meal? Well, that’s thanks in part to the amino acid tryptophan that’s found in turkey. Tryptophan stimulates serotonin production in the brain—the ultimate “feel-good” chemical that improves mood and even regulates stress. Turkey is also packed with protein, which boosts energy and alertness levels.
Walnuts are a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, and have been shown to boost mood and even feelings of self-worth. Sarah M. Conklin, Ph.D from the University of Pittsburgh found that adults who consumed higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet had higher volumes of grey matter in the area of their brain that controls emotion and mood. Not to mention, walnuts also improve heart health, cognitive function, and joint maintenance.
3. LOW-FAT DAIRY
Selenium is the star when it comes to low-fat dairy products. A mineral that can only be absorbed through food, selenium behaves as an antioxidant that protects against oxidative stress. Selenium has also been scientifically proven to enhance self-reported mood. In addition to low-fat dairy products, this mineral can also be found in whole grains, legumes, and seafood.
Believe it or not, eggs are an egg-cellent source of vitamin D. All puns aside, vitamin D, which is found in egg yolks, has been proven to increase positive mood and prevent depressive symptoms. Eggs are also a great source of iron, protein and vitamin B, which is responsible for converting food into energy.
5. DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate is a known joy stimulant. In one study, subjects who drink the equivalent of 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily reported feeling calmer and more content. This is a result of the cocoa in dark chocolate that boosts brain serotonin levels, producing those feelings of calm and bliss we all experience when we bite into a piece of chocolate.
6. FATTY FISH
Fatty fish, especially herring, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines and tuna, contains omega-3 fatty acids, which, as we know, is a powerful mood stabilizer. One study found that participants who ingested a gram of fish oil each day noticed a 50 percent decrease in negative symptoms, such as anxiety or sadness, and an improvement in mood.
7. GREEN TEA
According to Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, a researcher and nutrition expert, green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that stimulates sensations of calmness and focus. Studies show that theanine can cross the blood-brain barrier and positively affect brain chemistry, possibly by changing the levels of amino acids affecting serotonin—everyone’s favorite neurotransmitter.