We’ve all been there. Unloading your frustration on a bag of potato chips, consoling yourself with a pint of ice cream, eating a box of cookies after a long day at work.
Kicking an emotional eating habit is easier said than done, so instead of telling you to go cold turkey on it, today we’re dishing on the types of foods you should eat when you’re in a particular mood.
Research shows that patients suffering depression often have low levels of Vitamin B6 and folic acid. While clinical depression is a serious illness that can’t be treated solely with nutrition, eating foods high in B vitamins can ease symptoms of depression and cure an ordinary case of the blues.
Bananas, oranges and papaya
Just one medium banana has over 0.4 mg, or 21 percent of your daily Vitamin B6 needs. Citrus fruits boast high folic acid content, with one orange containing 10 percent of your daily needs and one papaya containing nearly 30 percent of your daily needs. Slice up a banana, papaya and orange treat yourself to a mood-boosting tropical fruit salad.
You might associate sunflower seeds with baseball games, but you should always keep a stash around your house too. A ¼ cup serving has nearly ¼ of your daily recommended Vitamin B6 needs. Sprinkle sunflower seeds on salads, cereals, oatmeal or use as a soup topper.
This one should come as no surprise, since most of us have experienced the feeling of bliss after biting into a piece of chocolate. Research shows that chocolate contains several chemical compounds that can produce a bliss-like experience: caffeine, which boosts dopamine and cannabinoids, which are closely related to the active ingredient found in marijuana.
Choose a high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa for a concentrated dose of happiness. You’ll get more antioxidants and less sugar than with milk or semi-sweet chocolate.
Do you ever feel like there’s a hazy cloud sitting on top of your brain, a type of cloud that makes you feel groggy and unable to focus? This phenomenon, often referred to as “brain fog,” can be caused by lack of high-quality sleep, dehydration, or the foods that you’re eating.
For instance, when you eat sugar and refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar spikes and then crashes. Since your brain uses glucose as its main energy source, your brain also experiences this crash, which can lead to brain fog, as well as mood swings and irritability.
Legumes, soybeans and quinoa
If you experience brain fog, your brain is likely craving iron, a nutrient that is critical in maintaining memory, attention and other cognitive functions. There are two kinds of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron, the former which is found only in animal products. Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron by six-fold, so try adding a source of vitamin C when you eat these high-iron foods.
1 cup of cooked soybeans contains nearly half of your daily iron needs, with 1 cup of lentils containing 37 percent and 1 cup of kidney beans containing 29 percent. And you’ll get 15 percent of your daily iron needs in one cup of cooked quinoa.
Avocado, Spinach and Sweet Potatoes
Potassium is a mineral essential to learning and memorization, so if you’re low on potassium, you may have trouble retaining information or focusing and may experience mental fatigue. One Haas avocado has 975 mg of potassium, one cup of spinach has 840 mg and one sweet potato has 450 mg. Together, these foods provide roughly half of your daily potassium needs. For an easy dinner, bake a sweet potato and stuff it with mashed avocado and spinach. Top with beans of choice, quinoa and salsa for a hearty nutrient-packed meal.
Studies show that 18 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety. And even people who don’t suffer from clinical anxiety may feel anxious from time to time.
While you may already know that you should avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar if you’re feeling anxious, you may not be aware that there are certain foods that can help ease your anxiety.
Studies show that individuals with anxiety have low levels of zinc and that supplementing one’s diet with zinc can improve anxiety-related symptoms. Oysters are the most zinc-rich food, with just three oysters providing 200 percent of your daily needs. So the next time you feel anxious, head out to happy hour and treat yourself to a plate of oysters. Just skip the alcohol, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety.
Fortified cereals, nuts & seeds
While zinc is found in many animal products, there’s no shortage of plant-based sources of zinc. Fortified breakfast cereals can provide half or more of your daily zinc needs, with Total cereal providing an entire day’s worth of zinc.
Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds also contain a moderate amount of zinc. To enhance absorption of the zinc found in nuts, soak them in water overnight. Enjoy a hearty breakfast of fortified grain cereal with cashew milk and top it with a seed/nut mix of choice.
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids—found in wild salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and anchovies—has been shown to attenuate anxiety, irritability and clinical depression and can help keep adrenaline and cortisol from spiking when you’re stressed.
If you just got into an argument with your spouse or experienced a bit of road rage, your blood pressure may be soaring. To calm down, snack on foods that are high in magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Additionally, to boost positive thoughts, your body will need a boost of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to happiness. Natural serotonin boosters include L-theanine, B vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc.
Sip on this: L-theanine, an amino acid found almost in tea leaves and particularly in green tea, increases serotonin levels, helps calm you down, and reduces stress. The next time you find yourself angry, brew yourself a cup of green tea and relieve your tension with a simple tea meditation.
Seeds and Nuts
Out of all seeds and nuts, pumpkin seeds take the cake, with ½ cup providing 81 percent of your daily needs. Next in line are sesame seeds (69 percent), Brazil nuts (63 percent) and almonds (48 percent). Make a trail mix out of your favorite seeds and nuts, dark chocolate chips and dried figs, foods that are all high in magnesium.
The next time you find yourself in a mood, treat yourself to some of these mood-lifting foods.
Nisha Vora is the content marketing manager at Hungryroot. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she practiced corporate litigation and public interest law before leaving the legal profession to pursue her dream of a career in food and joining Hungryroot. She maintains a vegan food Instagram account and a wellness/travel blog. Her photos have been featured on , , Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine and Thrive Magazine.