Does your diet affect your mood? 100%. Countless studies have unearthed a direct correlation between what you’re wolfing down and, ultimately, how you feel. But there hasn’t been a final verdict (yet) on the exact foods you should sidestep to avoid the blues. Instead, you’ll have to follow general guidelines to dodge anxiety.
For example, poor hydration has been linked to mood slumps, while dosing too much caffeine can also swing your emotions into the red. However, can certain foods actually do the opposite? Is there something you can plate up right now that might help you feel better both mentally and physically?
We scoured the pantry to find six ingredients that might help give you the lift you need:
Specifically, yoghurt that contains a healthy helping of probiotics. Recent research has found a strong link between gut health and mental health. In short, if your insides are struggling, your mind might be, too. Fortunately, keeping your digestive tract in good standing good restore you to a good place.
A UCLA study found that those who regularly consumed yoghurt rich in probiotics had an altered response to stressful situations. “Time and time again, we hear from patients that they never felt depressed or anxious until they started experiencing problems with their gut,” says Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, an associate professor of medicine in the digestive diseases division of the university. “Our study shows that the gut–brain connection is a two-way street.”
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that those who chowed down the most nuts were significantly less likely to experience anxiety and depression when compared to those eating barely any. Almonds stand out thanks to their high vitamin E, fibre and protein content, but feel free to grab a bag of cashews.
3. Dark Chocolate
According to one study, regular consumption of dark chocolate can help boost your mood and improve your overall mental health. In the research, participants were asked to sip on a dark chocolate drink mix each day. Some were given a high dose of polyphenols (a compound with anti-inflammatory properties), others a low dose and the rest were handed a placebo. The result? Those getting the biggest hit experienced a significant increase in feelings of calmness and contentedness.
A staple in curries, teas and even—in some parts of Cape Town—ice cream, turmeric has been shown to be an effective mood booster. One study found that rats who consumed curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, experienced lower levels of stress and anxiety. Further research has shown that turmeric may be an effective way to treat many types of mood disorders.
This fish is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two chemicals that have been shown to help ward off anxiety. In recent research, it was discovered that those who ate diets featuring these compounds were far less likely to experience mood disorders than others. Researchers posit that fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and hit the brakes on brain cell dysfunction, two issues common in those suffering from anxiety.
READ MORE: See Exactly Why You Can’t Stop Stress Eating
6. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is a type of plant that looks like a small white or yellow daisy. This herb has long been a steeped staple of tea connoisseurs, with many relying on the brew to relax and calm down. Turns out there’s science behind these steaming, stress-busting cuppas. A 2017 study looked at a group of adults suffering from generalised anxiety disorder over a period of five years. Those who consumed chamomile extract on a daily basis presented with far fewer symptoms of this common mood disorder.