We all have those down days. The world looks bleak. Nothing feels right. Cheer up. We have just what you need to feel better: Chocolate. Or spinach. Take your pick. U.S. News & World Report has helpfully identified five foods that can help you see the brighter side. Call them the feel-good foods.
1. Dark chocolate
Many of us have turned to dark chocolate for a quick pick-me-up without understanding why it works. It appears to lower the level of stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, even for those who weren’t stressed before eating chocolate.
2. Lean beef
Top round, eye round, sirloin tip and boneless strip steak are cuts of lean beef that are loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin. This feel-good chemical can improve your mood. If you don’t want to eat beef, you can get the same benefits from other tryptophan-filled foods, such as yogurt, nuts, soy, lamb, pork and turkey.
Spinach is packed with the B-vitamin folate, which is known to affect the neurotransmitters that influence mood by reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. Other foods that are rich in folate include lentils, asparagus, collard greens, okra and fortified breakfast cereals.
Several medical studies have shown a link between low levels of vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Other than the sun, milk is a leading source of vitamin D, which will not only boost your mood, but also help keep your bones healthy and strong. If you don’t like milk or can’t tolerate it, you can get vitamin D from cod liver oil, egg yolks, canned tuna fish, fortified orange juice and fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin D supplements may also help, but do consult your physician before taking them.
5. Fatty fish
The key mood-boosting ingredient in fatty fish is omega-3 fatty acids, which helps regulate brain chemicals. One of these is dopamine, which the brain releases in response to pleasurable experiences. Fatty fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, halibut, herring, oysters, sardines and albacore tuna.