Many people don’t know the connection between gut health and brain health. Having had my own experiences with panic attacks, depression and severe anxiety I can tell you firsthand that changing my diet is what brought me back to life.
As a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant™ my mission is to help drained moms feel good again by teaching you how to use food as fuel for your brain!
You can use food to take care of your brain so you can feel better mentally and have more energy to do the things you love and take care of your family.
I believe in incremental, sustainable change. You don’t have to give up the things you love…you just need to be aware of how things affect you and be willing to experiment.
While there are many foods to boost your mood out there, here is a list of 7 easy-to-find foods you can start with that will help your brain and mental state. You can also download and print my handy infographic to stick on your fridge.
7 Foods to Boost Your Mood
We all know that seafood, especially fatty fish like salmon and sardines, are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Compared to other sources of omega-3s, seafood contains EPA which is an essential omega 3 for brain health and is thought to help with depression and DHA which helps with brain function and ADHD.
You can however also find EPA and DHA Omega-3s in sea vegetables like algae (including wakame, nori and kelp), and cyanobacteria (or micro-algae) like spirulina, and chlorella, which are all different forms of algae.
While sea vegetables help, it is likely you will need to supplement if you are on a vegetarian diet as 100 gram serving of macro-algae, or seaweed, provides about 100mg of EPA, but little DHA.
Contains: Omega 3 fatty acids (including EPA and DHA)
Mood-boosting benefit: Helps depression and improves brain function
Recommended Amount: 250 mg – 500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day for a healthy adult.
Our bodies break down protein to make amino acids, which are then used to create neurotransmitters. Tryptophan is a particularly important amino acid because it cannot be produced by the body. Getting enough tryptophan from protein is important because it is used to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.
As far as if red meat is healthy or not? A 2017 study out of the Food and Mood Centre showed that cutting out red meat led to poorer mental health. And it doesn’t take much to get enough. 3-4 palm sized servings per week will ensure proper amounts of Tryptophan.
Mood-boosting benefit: Increases serotonin
Recommended Amount: 65g-100g/week
Magnesium has recently been associated with relieving anxiety. This mineral is also involved in muscle relaxation. While magnesium is available as a supplement, there are many food sources of magnesium including leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans and grains.
Mood-boosting benefit: Helps relieve anxiety, muscle relaxation
Recommended Amount: 1/4 cup = 47% of daily recommended magnesium.
Vitamin D is usually made by the body when exposed to sunlight. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with Seasonal Affective Order (SAD) and depression.
Salmon is a famously high source of Vitamin D. In fact, just one serving gives you more Vitamin D than the recommended 400mg daily intake.
Contains: Vitamin D
Mood-boosting benefit: Helps with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Recommended Amount: 4oz (no more than twice a week due to heavy metals in fish)
Fermented foods are a great source of the healthy gut bacteria you need for good brain and mental health, good digestion and a strong immune system. Yogurt from grass-fed animals is highly recommended because grass-feeding improves the quality of yogurt and makes the yogurt richer in omega-3 fats and another beneficial fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
Most commercial yogurt makers have jumped on the “probiotic” bandwagon. But beware, many have as little as 1000 living bacteria per gram…far less than the industry recommendation of at least 1,000,000 to really be considered a true serving of probiotic.
Contains: Healthy Gut Bacteria
Mood-boosting benefit: Improves digestion, immunity and cognitive function
Recommended Amount: 1,000,000 living bacteria per gram of yogurt
Low levels of B vitamins are associated with depression and neurological issues. B vitamins are important for brain function and they are protective antioxidants.
You can get all B vitamins, except B12, from spinach. Vitamin B12 is only found in meat, fish, eggs, and algae, so you may need to take B12 supplements if your diet is low in animal products.
Contains: Vitamin B (excluding B12)
Mood-boosting benefit: fights depression, helps prevent and reduce neurological issues
Recommended Amount: 1 cup = about 25% of your B vitamin needs (excluding b12)
Teas can include ingredients that help to improve mood. The amino acid L-theanine in green tea is known to cause relaxation without causing drowsiness.
The L-Theanine also increases brain levels of several neurotransmitters and reduces anxiety by increasing alpha brain wave activity.
Mood-boosting benefit: Relaxation without the drowsiness
Recommended Amount: 1-2 cups to feel relaxation benefits.
If you are looking for holistic ways to improve your overall brain health, try adding these mood-boosting foods to your diet more frequently and see how they work for you!
Interested in finding more ways to improve your mood? Download my free self-care cards for busy moms on the go! These 60 second mood-boosting tips are the perfect way to increase your wellbeing on a tight schedule!