Most of us are always looking for ways to feel better – physically, mentally, and emotionally. And as we all feel the lingering effects of the pandemic and unrest around the globe, it can be easy to slide into anxiety or sadness. Some individuals may need medication for relief, while others may seek out temporary (and unhealthy) reprieves such as binging TV, shopping, or alcohol. But what if we told you that a more sustainable solution could be as simple as going to your kitchen pantry?
You really are what you eat
Even if you’re not experiencing emotional challenges such as depression or anxiety, we all have days when we feel lethargic, sluggish, or down in the dumps. And what we choose to put into our bodies can significantly impact how we feel on multiple levels. The old adage “you are what you eat,” really is true. If you eat empty calories that don’t fuel your body, odds are you’ll wind up feeling tired and low-energy. There is even a link between eating junk food and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. But if you consistently chow down on nutritionally dense and calorically appropriate food, you’ll probably feel more energized, ready to take on your day, and even a little happier.
So, how can you eat better to feel better? Here are just three ways you can boost your mood with your diet.
Supercharge your brain. You’ve probably heard the term “brain food,” but what exactly is that? In short, it’s foods that are dense in the nutrients our brains need to work optimally, including regulating our emotions. These nutrients can even lower your risk for future problems such as dementia. Vitamin K, leucine, folate, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids are a few examples of these nutrient superstars and can be found in leafy, green vegetables (think kale, spinach, or broccoli) and fatty fish such as salmon or cod. Additionally, flavonoid-rich berries are also key to optimal brain function. In fact, Harvard researchers found that a high intake of these berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, over time, can delay memory decline in older women by two and a half years. So in addition to improving your mood, cognitive function, and recollection, the right food can keep our brains healthier, longer!
- Stay away from the two P’s: processed and packaged. In our fast-paced, over-scheduled world, it can be hard to find (or make) the time to cook healthy meals, which can lead to a reliance on quick and easy meals. The downside is that pre-packaged and overly processed foods contain chemicals that can be difficult for our bodies to break down, lack nutritional quality, and have addictive properties. It’s easy to spot these types of foods – they usually come in a package and can be microwaved. Not all packaged food is necessarily unhealthy but it is important to read the nutrition label. If you see words you have trouble pronouncing, it’s probably best to avoid it and instead look for whole, unprocessed food as much as possible.
- Build colorful meals. In addition to those green, leafy veggies, it’s important to create colorful meals as often as possible. Shop the produce section rather than the freezer for veggies and eat them raw to reap the nutritional benefits. The more colorful your plate, the better. Consider adding bell peppers, strawberries, or blueberries to your greens and including grains and healthy fats to ensure a nutritionally dense and well-rounded diet. When you fuel your body with healthy and sustaining food, you’ll physically feel better which also correlates to a better mood. That’s not to say you’ll never experience a bad day, but overall your body will be better equipped to help you navigate the inevitable highs and lows of life.
Everything is connected
It’s important to remember that what we put into our bodies affects our energy levels, brain function, and mood, all of which shape our daily lives. By eliminating (or at least limiting) processed food, loading up on brain food, and eating colorful meals, you can help boost your mood and feel better overall.
If you’re not sure how to start a healthier eating lifestyle, reach out to Forge Fitness & Nutrition Coaching. We offer nutrition coaching programs that are based on your current condition, ultimate goal, and lifestyle – all delivered right to your mobile device.