8 healthy foods that can improve mood during COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to social and economic upheaval around the world, including social isolation and unprecedented unemployment levels.
The crisis has led to a rise in mental health disorders, including stress, depression and anxiety.
There are foods that are scientifically proven to make you feel better, typically either by boosting your mood with serotonin or helping to stave off depression or anxiety, while also providing health benefits for the body.
Antioxidant-rich foods are packed with feel-good amino acids that can boost your mood, according to dietitians, doctors, and nutritionists.
1- Apples: "Apples are a top source of fiber. In addition to filling you up, apple fiber supports healthy digestion, helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, curbs 'bad' LDL cholesterol, and feeds the good gut bacteria tied to stronger immunity and a happier mood" explains registered dietitian and author Cynthia Sass.
2- Dairy: milk, cheese, and yoghurt contain amino acids that increase the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are important in regulating mood, says Dr. Julian Lagoy, a psychiatrist in San Jose, California.
3- Kefir and other probiotic-rich foods: "Probiotic-rich foods can help create a sense of calm in the body by improving gut health. Probiotics are necessary to improve the gut's microbiota and have been shown to improve and reduce effects of anxiety, stress, depression and simply lead to a happier disposition," notes Trista Best, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
Fermented foods are the richest in natural probiotics and include kefir, miso, kimchi, some yogurt, sauerkraut and tempeh.
4- Fruits and vegetables: Mood-boosting antioxidants are found in other healthy fruits and vegetables such as pineapples, artichokes, plums, and blackberries. "I like to tell my patients who suffer from anxiety to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables because those foods include antioxidants which help anxiety," explains Dr. Lagoy. "Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals which can damage the cells in your body."
5- Turmeric and Saffron: These two spices have been shown to help improve people's mood. "Saffron can help you feel more energetic and upbeat," Dr. Magavi says.
6- Whole grains: As part of a general healthy diet, consumption of whole grains is associated with lower risk of several diseases. A whole grain is a grain that contains the endosperm, germ, and bran.
"I always emphasize the importance of food in alleviating anxiety and boosting one's mood. Many of my patients have expressed improvement in their mood after making an effort to modify their diet," says Dr. Magavi.
7- Eggs: Eggs are high in protein and are a good source of vitamin D, which are both needed to make serotonin. "Whole eggs especially contain high amounts of tryptophan, as well as antioxidants, which lowers inflammation and controls free radicals in the body," says says nutritionist and holistic health coach Olivia Audrey.
8- Nuts: "Magnesium found in nuts and beans could keep cortisol levels at bay, decrease stress levels, and improve mood," says Dr. Magavi. "People who eat well tend to feel well, and the difference in mood can be conspicuous and life-changing." Other magnesium-rich foods include dark chocolate and avocados.