Guest Post by Marcus Clarke
It’s all too easy to turn to a great big bag of potato chips or the tub of ice-cream in the freezer when you’re feeling down. Food has long been a source of comfort, even some time to the detriment of a widening waistband. But do foods truly have the power to alter mood?
Scientific research has indeed found a correlation between certain nutrients and whole food groups and a decreased risk of depression. Whilst other factors such as plentiful exercise and a healthy lifestyle should be considered when looking at augmenting your diet to increase happiness, these following five foods have been scientifically proven to lift mood and decrease your risk of depression.
Fish, particularly salmon, simply abounds with goodness and has long been declared a superfood that can assist in balancing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. However, the benefits to mood are also as abundant as the catch of the day. Salmon is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids which have been recognized as nature’s best depression-fighting nutrients, and further contains at least eleven additional vitamins and minerals that boost health in general and make for a happier you.
Everyone knows about Popeye’s superfood as an overall health tonic to the body, but spinach has also been linked with mood enhancement. It’s the high levels of folate in the green leafy vegetable that purges your bloodstream of negative mood and leaves you feeling happier and with a clarity of thinking. Add to that a pleasant taste and crisp freshness in your afternoon salad, and there’s a whole lot to like about spinach.
What’s life without a little spice? Dreary, that’s what. Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, Jalapeños are the little pepper with an almighty kick. They work to improve your mood by introducing a chemical called capsaicin into your body. This is the chemical that makes peppers so hot and spicy. Your body, in turn, releases endorphins to counter the heat and these endorphins flood your body with feel good vibes. Jalapeños have even been recognized as an aphrodisiac, so to truly lift your mood, pop a pepper, dim the lights and get spicy.
Coffee addicts rejoice! The dark mistress that fuels your energy throughout the day and gets you through your 3 pm slump is definitely a scientific super food that will make you happy after that first intoxicating sip. A decrease in depression has been linked with drinking coffee, and the social benefits of having a ‘cuppa’ with friends is clear. Coffee further stimulates the central nervous system and increases the brain’s likeliness to release feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Yes, you can have your dark chocolate cake and eat it too. In moderation. Dark chocolate rounds out this list of five superfoods to make you happy, and it does so by being filled with antioxidants to assist in blood circulation and relaxation, but also because it is rich in magnesium. The magnesium found in dark chocolate has been linked with relieving PMS symptoms including fatigue and irritability and is a general all round stress-buster. Let’s also not discount the fact that it tastes really, really good!
So the next time you’re feeling down, forget the bag of chips, leave the ice-cream in the freezer and reach for a cup of coffee and a square of dark chocolate instead. Or if you really want to lift that mood, nibble on a jalapeño and get ready for the spice of life.
Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research in mental health and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.