Foods to Boost Your Mood

Do you feel down and unmotivated? Do the dark, cold winter days have you in the doldrums? Get out of your rut by increasing your intake of the foods listed below: they may help boost your mood and increase your energy.

Omega 3’s

Found in seafood, walnuts, leafy greens and flaxseed. Our bodies do not produce this fatty acid naturally so it is essential for us to consume it through our diet.

Omegas 3’s are important for brain function and have been suggested to decrease depression.  In short, if you consume this fatty acid regularly you may feel happier!

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Vitamin D

Have you ever felt that when you’re lying in the sun during the summer you feel happier? That may be because the sun provides your body with an ample amount of vitamin D. During winter months the sun is not as strong.

Many studies have reported low vitamin D levels related to symptoms of depression (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder). Vitamin D is found in eggs, tuna fish, salmon, herring, certain types of shitake and button mushrooms, and mackerel.  So if you live in a cold weather climate like New England, ask you doctor to check your vitamin D to make sure you are not deficient.

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B-vitamins include: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Biotin and Pantothenic Acid.

Being deficient in B-vitamins may cause mood swings and anxiety. B-vitamins work in every cell, performing many different jobs including helping your body release energy from the food you eat. These vitamins are distributed throughout a variety of foods, so if you’re eating a well balanced diet you will likely have enough.

To increase B-vitamins consume pork, milk and milk products, chicken, seafood, potatoes and fortified cereals. Fruits and vegetables also contain B-vitamins: spinach, broccoli, green peas, avocado, oranges, cantaloupe, bananas, beans and dried peas are all dietary sources.

An added bonus: studies have shown that people who consume seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables tend to be happier and express a better overall mood.

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Protein Rich Foods

Almonds, chicken, cod, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, soybeans and tuna are all sources of protein. Foods rich in protein are naturally high in tyrosine, an amino acid that helps boost dopamine, which is the brain’s feel-good chemical. In other words, including a little protein at most meals and snacks might help to keep your mood positive.

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To keep your spirits up during these months, explore new ways to keep your diet fresh and healthy using the nutrients mentioned above.  Also, don’t forget to exercise. Even small amounts of daily exercise have been shown to increase your happiness.

Do what makes you happy during these dark months and remember to eat healthy and stay active.

Alexandra Penney, a dietetic intern at MGH, completed her undergraduate degree in dietetics at the University of Vermont. Her interests include outpatient nutrition, with a focus on diabetes education, and working with a pediatric population on an inpatient basis. After completing her internship, she plans to become a registered dietitian and would like to pursue a master’s degree.

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Our Be Fit Nutritionists are comprised of dietetic interns studying at Massachusetts General Hospital. During their internship, they receive training on acute care nutrition, ambulatory and community nutrition, food service systems management, and research. Their comprehensive work is done in collaboration with registered dietitians.

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