Save the blues for winter - there’s nothing sad about bright sunshine, longer days, and beach-friendly temperatures. But even in the summer, things don’t always go our way --the AC broke, the food truck ran out of your favorite taco filling, and mosquitos love the scent of your sunscreen. To keep your head cool (at least mentally), here are 5 mood-boosting foods to keep your summer funk from becoming less bearable than the heat wave outside.
Walnuts are well known for being high in heart healthy unsaturated fats. In addition, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts have been shown to control serotonin and dopamine levels (i.e. mood hormones), which help prevent signs and symptoms of clinical depression. Just one ounce of walnuts (about 13 halves) contains over 10 percent of your body’s daily recommended magnesium needs. Just remember to pace the snacking as walnuts are composed mainly of fat, which contributes to over 90 percent of its calories.
There’s a reason kale retains its good reputation for its giant nutrient profile and low-calorie crunch. Besides a nice healthy dose of depression-fighting magnesium, kale also contains copper, a mineral important for essential cellular function and overall well-being. Copper not only stabilizes mood but also the general condition of the brain, and can decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s when consumed adequately. If kale isn’t up your alley, try swiss chard, which has a taste reminiscent of bok choy and goes well with Asian cuisine. It contains a similar nutrient profile and similar doses of mood-boosting minerals.
Like walnuts, salmon has a hefty dose of omega-3 fatty acids, an important nutrient for the brain’s composition and functioning. Studies show that inadequate doses of omega-3 fatty acids can increase the risk for neuropsychiatric disorders, especially those concerned with mood, memory and behavior. Add some canned salmon to your next veggie omelet for extra omega-3 and protein at breakfast. The extra protein will keep you full all morning and, combined with omega-3’s, will enhance alertness and short-term memory. At breakfast try adding some smoked salmon or lox, avocado, and sprouts on whole grain bread as a brain fuel powerhouse lunch.
Add some spice to your dishes with saffron and protect your brain cells while doing so. Saffron has been a natural alternative treatment for mild to moderate clinical depression due to the neuroprotective properties that keep brain cells and serotonin levels healthy. Popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, saffron has also been shown to be an effective treatment for sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
We all know that calcium is good for strong bones and teeth, but did you know that calcium is also good for a better mood? Calcium works with potassium to release neurotransmitters that control most bodily functions, mood being one of them. Getting enough high-quality calcium, found in dairy products like yogurt, can improve your mood while the probiotics support healthy digestion.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.