Mood Boosters For Fighting Anxiety and Depression

Like an engine, your brain functions best with high-quality fuel. Healthy food is not just fuel. It helps your body perform better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

In a study published in 2018, employees at Northern Arizona University ate a micronutrient-dense plant-rich diet for six weeks. That premium fuel for the human body significantly improved quality of life, sleep quality and reduced depression. On the other hand, many of the participants noted a link between eating sugary foods and feeling down the next day.

Here are some key foods and nutritional factors that are like adding an octane booster to maximize mood and minimize anxiety and depression.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are the richest source of two mood-boosting nutrients: magnesium—the relaxation mineral, and tryptophan. Tryptophan, the least abundant amino acid, must be ingested through food since our bodies do not make it. Without adequate tryptophan, in the diet, the body cannot make serotonin, the feel-good hormone.

When consumed with carbohydrates, tryptophan gets the advantage over other amino acids that compete for passage across the blood-brain barrier. Then it can metabolize into serotonin to reduce stress during the day and metabolize into melatonin in the dark to promote rest at night.

Plant sources of tryptophan naturally contain carbohydrates, making them superior to animal sources like turkey, which contain competing amino acids.

More top sources of tryptophan include black-eyed peas, tofu, pine nuts, tahini, sunflower seeds, cashews, and pecans. Other beans, nuts and seeds contribute smaller, yet significant amounts.

Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are one of the most concentrated sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat, which is essential for proper brain function and mood regulation. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains more ALA than a one-quarter cup of walnuts.

Since the body cannot manufacture ALA it needs to come from food. Only plants make omega-3 fats. Fish get their ALA from algae, but their tissues also concentrate highly toxic mercury.

Grind flaxseeds to unlock their mood-boosting potential. For the most nutrition benefit, consume ground flaxseed immediately, refrigerate, or freeze and use within a week. Whole flaxseeds act solely as fiber since they pass through the body undigested. Don’t be fooled by products that claim high ALA content but contain whole flaxseeds.

Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds

Chia seeds may be small—the size of a poppy seed—yet they contain the richest source of ALA.  When moistened they form a gel that expands up to nine times its size. Their neutral taste makes them versatile. Chia’s high fiber content lowers after-meal blood sugars[1] making mood swings less likely.

Like chia, hemp seeds are nutrition powerhouses. Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor and are rich in omega-3 fats, plus protein,[3] fiber, magnesium, and iron. They come from food-grade hemp plants, which are used for fiber, seed, and oil and do not contain psychoactive properties like its cousin marijuana.

The Role of Sugar

Refined sugar is not merely empty calories but an anti-nutrient, since it requires magnesium and B vitamins from elsewhere in the body for metabolism. Elevated blood sugars and inflammation also take their toll on mental health. No wonder the high consumption of sugar is linked to depression.

A study conducted at University College London and published in 2017 concluded: “Our research confirms an adverse effect of sugar intake from sweet food/beverage on long-term psychological health and suggests that lower intake of sugar may be associated with better psychological health.”

In the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study symptoms of depression were associated with higher intakes of added sugars and refined grains.

Brain Booster Bars: A Tasty Way to Eat Omega-3 Fats

These Brain Booster Bars offer a tasty way to consume omega-3 fats. They include several sources of omega-3: flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, plus pumpkin seeds for tryptophan. Sweetened with dates, Brain Booster Bars make a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without refined sugar.

Brain Booster Bars
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Brain Booster Bars

These naturally sweetened bars contain omega-3 fats and blueberries which support optimal brain function.
Prep Time15 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free, oil-free, soy-free, sugar-free, vegan
Servings: 16
Calories: 114kcal

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup rolled or quick oats
  • ¼ cup almonds
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup packed pitted Medjool dates
  • ½ cup dried blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons ground chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or a few drops lemon essential oil
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  • Process walnuts, oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and coconut in a food processor until finely chopped, but not totally ground.
  • Remove ¾ cup and set aside. Add dates and process until finely chopped. The mixture should hold together when pressed; if not, add 1 teaspoon water and process again. .
  • Add blueberries and process until thoroughly mixed. Add chia seeds, flax seeds, vanilla, and salt; process until thoroughly mixed.
  • Add the reserved nut mixture and process until mixed. Press firmly into an 8x8-inch pan. Cover and refrigerate. Keep refrigerated.

Notes

Variations:
• Substitute dried pineapple, raisins, or other dried fruit for the part or all of the dates.
• Substitute dried cranberries or cherries for the blueberries.
• Substitute ground hemp seeds for part of the ground flax or chia.
• Substitute 1-2 tablespoon ground sesame seeds for part of the pumpkin seeds
• Add 3 tablespoons mini dark chocolate chips.
• Add 1-2 tablespoons carob powder or cocoa powder.
• Roll into balls. If desired, roll in shredded coconut or finely chopped nuts.

Nutrition

Calories: 114kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 6mg | Potassium: 145mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 7IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 1mg