Two important factors linked to mood are serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness, concentration, and social ease. Dopamine helps control the part of the brain that feels a sense of reward after positive behaviors. You can easily incorporate mood boosting foods into your diet that increase both of these elements and put you in a happier place in your everyday life!
Self-esteem and eating are often related. Obviously there are contributing factors like self-talk, trauma, circumstances, and general health, but food does play a part in your self-esteem! If your mood is low because your body is bogged down with unhealthy foods or even just lacking in nutritious, mood boosting foods, it’s hard to feel great about yourself. I’m not just talking about the self-esteem of body image, either. The nutrients in food interact with your brain chemistry and can either support or harm the balance of important neurotransmitters.
Here are some mood boosting foods to keep in mind when you’re trying to improve your attitude:
A banana can help increase levels of both dopamine and serotonin in your brain. Bananas are able to produce serotonin thanks to the amino acid tryptophan that is converted to serotonin in the brain. HealthGuidance also recommends this fruit specifically for dopamine. Ripe bananas are particularly good for increasing levels of dopamine — if you can’t bring yourself to eat a ripe banana with brown spots, include it in a smoothie.
These natural snacks can increase both dopamine and serotonin in your body. Sunflower seeds are particularly good for improving dopamine. Nuts that will increase serotonin include almonds and walnuts. According to Serotune, foods rich in flax seed, or flax seed supplements, are another way to get a boost in dopamine and serotonin.
Iron Rich Foods
Foods that have a natural abundance of iron are a good source of serotonin. Some things that fit on this list include leafy green spinach, kale, broccoli, avocados and grapefruit.
Food that has a lot of calcium will give you a boost of serotonin. Getting calcium doesn’t have to mean drinking a glass of milk. Other food with a healthy dose of calcium include salmon, cheese, yogurt, egg, artichoke, soy, oranges, strawberries, grapes, peanuts, and avocado.
Eating foods that have a lot of antioxidants are another way to get a good dose of dopamine. Foods and vegetables are the best way to get antioxidants. Specifically, red beans, wild blueberries, red kidney beans, pinto beans, cranberries, and blackberries are all high in antioxidants.
While eating the right foods isn’t the only step to getting your emotional health on track, it’s certainly one important component. Specific foods can help your mood, but also consider your diet as a whole. Often what slows down our body or makes it crash directly affects our mood as well. The opposite of mood boosting foods are usually unhealthy fats, artificial sugars, and excess caffeine. I’ve personally experienced benefits by borrowing from the autoimmune diet. You can keep doing research to find something more comprehensive that works for you but even little habits add up, so stop and think about what you’re putting into your grocery cart!
Need some more help finding food that will boost your energy? Check out this helpful article slideshow from WebMD: Energy Foods.
How to Handle Emotional Eating Over the Holidays
Nobody wants to feel that way! Here are five ways you can minimize emotional eating so you can feel healthy, energized, comfortable, and engaged this holiday season.
If you are finding yourself reaching for the tin of shortbread over and over again, don’t judge yourself. Just be curious. Is it because you’re hungry after skipping breakfast? Is it because you are feeling bored? Anxious? Unsatisfied? Once you identify what you’re feeling, ask yourself what you’re really needing in that moment. If you’re feeling bored, you might choose to engage a family member in an interesting conversation, or suggest a fun game for the family to play. Acknowledging your feelings and underlying needs is the ultimate form of self-care!
Clear the calendar
Set yourself up for success by saying “no” to some commitments to make more time for self-care. Can you skip out on your office holiday party early and treat yourself to a bubble bath? Can you put off laundry for a day or two and get to bed an hour earlier? Schedule self-care on your calendar, even if it’s just ten or fifteen minutes. Every little bit makes a difference!
Love your body
With emotional eating often comes body image issues. Give your body the love it deserves by wearing clothes that you feel great in, giving it food that is nourishing, and moving in ways that don’t feel like punishment (sledding, anyone?). (If you need a little more help on learning to love yourself, check out our article on improving self-esteem.)
Make it a year-round habit
If you go into the holidays with the intention of starting a strict diet on January 1st, you are setting yourself up for overeating or even binging (here are some apps that help you keep your resolutions). Remind yourself that you can eat gingerbread and mashed potatoes anytime you want. If December rolls into January and you find yourself craving some holiday treats, you can still have them (and probably at a discounted price – score)!
There will likely be times where you go overboard with eating. That’s okay! Sometimes, we do use emotional eating as a coping mechanism, it just shouldn’t be the only one in our toolbox. Other times, we make the conscious decision to overeat because we are enjoying the meal so much and want to keep tasting the delicious flavors. If you end up overeating or feeling uncomfortable after your meals, treat yourself with kindness. Do something loving for yourself that will help you feel better. Drinking some water, going for a walk, stretching, or taking a nap are all ideas of ways to show yourself some love and compassion.