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In this day of modern living where stress seems to be an unavoidable element, foods that combat stress and uplift our mood may just be what we need to escape the possibility of losing our sanity. They not only help us feel good, they in fact have healing properties that can support our overall well-being.


Dark Chocolate stimulates the brain to release endorphins, the body’s natural anti-stress hormones, also known as the “happy hormones.” It increases the body’s levels of serotonin, another “feel-good” chemical that regulates mood and relaxation. Dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a substance that acts like a mild stimulant to make you feel good. Regular chocolates don’t do as well because of their high sugar content that further messes up your mood by interfering with your sugar balance. Go for at least 70% cacao.

Walnuts are rich in tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is synthesized. They also contain magnesium, an essential element in the release, uptake, and proper utilization of serotonin by brain cells. Walnuts also regulate mood by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Other nuts that offer similar benefits include almonds, pistachio, pine, pecan, cashew, hazelnut, walnut, and macadamia.

Avocado is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, one of the building blocks of the brain and nerves. A diet rich in omega-3 keeps the nervous system healthy and has been shown to be more effective than traditional pharmaceutical anti-depressants in treating depression and anxiety.

Flaxseed is high in fibers. It delays gastric emptying and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar levels are associated with mood swings, irritability, and cravings. A stable blood sugar level provides a sustained supply of energy, eliminating swings between lethargy and hyperactivity throughout the day. Flaxseed is also rich in omega-3 and contributes to the structural and physiological integrity of the brain and nerves. Other high-fiber food like oatmeal and grains fall within this category.

Brown rice and other whole grains are rich in vitamin B. The B Vitamins have been shown to increase the synthesis and levels of serotonin. Folate and B12 are known specifically to improve the central nervous system, mood, and memory.

Banana is another mood-enhancing food. It contains a lot of tryptophan that can readily be converted to serotonin. It also has magnesium which facilitates the utilization of serotonin. Studies have shown that depressed women who are deficient in tryptophan have a higher risk of regressing to depressive states.

Leafy, Dark Green Vegetables. Leafy greens have one of the highest ratios of nutrients per ounce of any food. They provide a range of B vitamins, which are needed to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin in your brain. Studies have shown that an increase in any of the B vitamins, such as niacin, folate or B6 can help with memory, mood and energy. Dark green vegetables also contain vitamin C which may also improve mood swings.

Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are other good sources of tryptophan. They also contain some Vitamin D and are rich in calcium. While calcium is known more for its role in bone health, there is scientific evidence that it can affect mood. Studies have shown that subjects taking calcium regularly have better moods than those who don’t or who take very little. The exact mechanism is yet to be fully understood but researchers are investigating along the line of calcium being essential in the transmission of signals between nerves.

Salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is arguably the best dietary source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, mood swings, and other affective disorders. Incorporating adequate vitamin D in the diet has been shown to improve mood, lift depression, and give a general sense of well being. It also improves concentration and cognition (memory, learning). Other good sources of Vitamin D include tuna, sardines, and cod liver oil.

Turkey, duck, and other poultry are rich in tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that is essential in elevating the levels of epinephrine and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters that are involved in regulating mood and motivation. They also help boost energy which facilitates coping and adjustment in stressful episodes.

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