Until recently, it was believed that any correlation between food and mood was the stuff of myth and music, but recent research suggests that there's a significant connection. Almost everyone has experienced the elation produced by consuming an exquisitely crafted culinary confection, but not everyone wants to, or should, eat desserts on a regular basis. Following are nine everyday foods that contain mood-enhancing properties that won't cause dieters to bust a gut.
Rich in omega-3 acids, almonds are an excellent little mood booster that are naturally low in fat and make an excellent substitute for sugar and fat laden items during between-meal interludes. Almonds can also be sprinkled over pasta, or used in breading for fried or baked fish or poultry.
Bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan that the body uses to produce certain neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin aids in regulation of sleep patterns, and serotonin contributes to overall feelings of well-being. Because the body cannot produce tryptophan on its own, consuming adequate dietary sources is an important aspect of maintaining good mental health.
When the body or the brain experience stress, the adrenal gland releases a hormone called cortisol. Otherwise known as the ""stress hormone,"" cortisol provides energy and focus for those in flight-or-fight situations. However, most humans in First World countries rarely experience genuine flight-or-fight situations, and the added cortisol in their system produced as a result of lesser stressors can lead to anxiety. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain compounds that help block the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland.
Yet another serotonin-friendly staple, brown rice can be piled on the plate on a daily basis without weight gain worries. It also mixes well with other types of mood enhancing foods such as salmon.
A two-inch square of dark chocolate isn't a diet-buster, and most people find small amounts of dark chocolate significantly more satisfying than their milk or white chocolate counterparts. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called polyphenols that research has shown to be instrumental in creating a feeling of well-being. The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the higher the level of polyphenols.
The ultimate feel-good food, milk contains a substantial amount of vitamin D, and that helps stimulate serotonin production in the brain. Dieters can guard against weight gain by choosing low fat or skim milk. Other dairy products such as yogurt, sour cream, and cheese also contain significant vitamin D.
With large amounts of omega-3 acids and vitamin D, salmon is a mood-enhancing cocktail that also improves skin tone and texture. Consumers should take care to always purchase wild salmon rather than farmed, however, because farmed fish includes added hormones and dyes that may not be healthy.
At first glance, turkey and bananas don't seem to have much in common, but turkey is another tryptophan powerhouse that increases serotonin and melatonin levels. Most people who celebrate Thanksgiving with traditional American foods are well aware of the mood enhancing effects of a nice turkey dinner. The enhanced melatonin level is what makes so many people take a nap shortly after enjoying their Thanksgiving feast.
Another nut that provides serious omega-3 benefits, walnuts are among the best vegetative sources of omega-3s. Like their almond counterpart, they can be enjoyed a variety of ways and make excellent snack options.
Many people equate weight loss and following a healthy eating program to be grim excursions into flavorless fare, but the above foods prove that's not the case. Besides being delicious and nutritious, they've got bad mood zapping properties that will make dieting a pleasure.