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July 3, 2017

5 Foods to Improve Your Mood

by John Hastings

Eating to feel better is usually a terrible idea -- using food to raise your spirits is a fast path to putting on pounds. However, choosing the right foods can help you lay the groundwork for a good mood, says Colleen Chiariello, RD, chief clinical dietitian at Northwell’s Syosset Hospital. “Your first goal is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet,” she says. “But while you do that, you can also choose healthy foods that will help keep your spirits up.” Here’s her guide to a diet that’s kind to your body and mind:

Pack in plenty of produce. You know fruits and veggies are good for your health. Now, here’s another reason to get the recommended nine servings daily: doing so may improve your psychological well-being. In fact, a recent study from New Zealand found that when teens were given a couple of extra servings of fruits and vegetables a day, they reported feeling more energetic, lively and engaged. Any produce will make a good addition to your plate, but Ms. Chiariello’s favorites include kale (it’s high in copper and potassium, which appear to be good for mood), as well as asparagus, berries and bananas (all of these deliver folate and tryptophan, which also seem to help with emotional balance).

Go fish. There’s a lot of research supporting the idea that fish is good for your brain – especially oily fish high in omega 3 fats, such as salmon, albacore tuna and mackerel. Shellfish has plenty of omega 3s, too. Interesting research tidbit: In a review of studies, researchers at Harvard and the University of Melbourne in Australia found that omega 3 fish oils could boost the effects of antidepressants for people suffering from clinical depression (but talk to your doctor before trying this approach). To fine-tune your diet, Ms. Chiariello suggests eating a couple of servings of fish weekly. Not a seafood fan? Fish oil supplements appear to be helpful, too.

Enjoy a little chocolate. You’ve probably heard – and celebrated – the news that chocolate may offer benefits to your heart. But Ms. Chiariello also is a fan of the mood-boosting power of chocolate, especially dark chocolate. A number of studies suggest that the nutrients in chocolate lift spirits, she says -- but you need a concentrated dose, so choose bars with a cacao content of at least 70 percent (milk chocolate doesn’t have enough of the real thing). A word of caution: Too much chocolate is not what the doctor ordered. Limit yourself to a couple of ounces a day.

Be picky about carbs. We’ve been taught to fear carbohydrates, but Ms. Chiariello says it’s important to distinguish between nutrient-dense carbs and emptier ones that can send your blood sugar soaring and then crashing. . .with your mood following along. In the less-helpful category are items like donuts, white bread and other refined carbs. Instead, choose high-fiber, nutrient-packed carbs, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which help keep blood sugar steady. They’re better for your mood and overall health.

Get nutty. Forget those cans of oily, salty mixed nuts – they won’t do your health any favors. But raw or dry-roasted nuts are a different story. As a snack that’s high in selenium, they can nourish your outlook as they take the edge off your hunger, says Ms. Chiariello. Research is still preliminary, but a number of studies suggest a connection between low levels of this mineral and poor mood. In addition to nuts (especially Brazil nuts), good sources of selenium include whole-grain bread, fish, poultry and eggs, she says.