Many of us are no strangers to the mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Food cravings usually occur around this time because our blood sugar levels drop as more time passes from lunch. A decrease in blood sugar levels can increase the need to eat to boost one's energy. But beyond physical effects, there are mental effects as well. Consumption of sugar also makes us feel good because it causes our brains to release dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for allowing us to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. With that being said, there are other foods you can consume to help boost your mood!
Most people drink coffee as a wake-me-up stimulant, as a 3 p.m. coffee break, as a way to stay awake through the night, or sometimes all three. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases dopamine levels and energy metabolism throughout the brain. Coffee isn't just for a jolt of energy though. There have been studies that suggest a correlation between regular caffeinated coffee consumers and a lower risk of suffering from symptoms of depression and a lower risk of suicide. However, too much caffeine can lead you to feel jittery, anxious, dehydrated, have headaches and increased heart rate. With that being said, depending on your body’s sensitivity to caffeine, consuming coffee may increase your productivity and improve your mood and mental health!
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" because your body can produce it when your skin is exposed to the sun. This essential, fat-soluble nutrient helps keep bones healthy and strong, promotes cell growth, and benefits immune function. Studies show that vitamin D plays an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. People with vitamin D deficiency are at higher risk of developing depression. If you find yourself stuck indoors for most hours of the day, you can take vitamin D supplements and eat foods rich in vitamin D such as fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon), orange juice, soy milk, cheese, and egg yolks.
3. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is perhaps the most common go-to comfort food when working through emotional pain. We eat chocolate to feel pleasure, comfort and gratification. It is known to increase serotonin, which is another neurotransmitter that produces feelings of happiness. Dark chocolate, in particular, has a higher concentration of flavonoids as compared to other chocolate varieties. Flavonoids are antioxidant chemicals that have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles, which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression. A study assessing over 13,000 adults found that those who ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods were 70% less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who did not eat any dark chocolate during that time. In another study, 30 people were given 40g of dark chocolate, over 14 days. The results showed that chocolate eaters produced fewer stress hormones and their anxiety levels decreased. If you're keen on adding dark chocolate to your diet, keep in mind that it is high in fat and calories, so moderation is key.
Apples aren't the only fruit that can help keep the doctor away. Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan and many vitamins such as B6 which helps convert the tryptophan into serotonin. Increased serotonin levels can make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
5. Green Tea
As they say, there's nothing a good cup of tea can't fix! Studies have shown that drinking tea lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Green tea, in particular, seems to lower the risk of developing depression as well as dementia. It seems that the caffeine and l-theanine present in green tea play a role in the effects of green tea, which include a reduction of anxiety, and benefits in memory and attention. Who wouldn't enjoy the perfect blend of motivation and calm to help get you through the day!