13 Nutrients To Consume For A Happier Outlook On Life, According To Experts
In life, it can be said that food can easily affect our moods. When we are deficient in nutrients, we can get hangry or lethargic, neither of which is fun (especially for those around us!). Likewise, certain nutrients can not only prevent these urges, but can also actually boost our happiness and fuel our bodies with goodness and care overall.
As a certified health coach, I often tell my clients, "You are what you eat." Eating sugary, high-fat (bad fats!), and greasy foods can make us feel sluggish and gross from the inside-out, while a grain bowl with beans and broccoli might make us feel nourished, energized, and clean, with of course, that inevitable glow of the skin. In addition to eating mainly whole foods, such as lean proteins, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, and avoiding processed foods as much as possible, picking foods that contain happiness-boosting properties can take our wellbeing and health to a higher, and peppier level. Whether you are feeling low or stressed, or would just like to prevent such moodiness, it's easy to incorporate foods that can give us a happier outlook on life and still be absolutely delicious and versatile. Here are thirteen nutrients to consume for an extra pep in your step each day.
While calcium can strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis, it can also make us feel happier. "Greek yogurt and dark, leafy greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard," are great options, recommends certified holistic health coach and personal trainer Jen Bruno with J.B. Fitness and Nutrition, over email correspondence with Bustle. As a side note, calcium might even ease PMS symptoms and help make that time of the month a bit less dark.
Also known as B9 or folic acid, folate plays a critical role in the transmission of neurotransmitter signals affecting mood regulation and serotonin levels. A deficiency can lead to weakened energy levels, irritability and moodiness. Keep folate levels high with "dark leafy greens, such as spinach," advises Bruno, or beans, says Alicia Ward, VP of Marketing at Beanitos. "The superfood contain folate, and folate can play a key role in regulating your mood. Beans are also rich in amino acids – one amino acid founds in beans is tryptophan which is used by the body to produce serotonin – serotonin helps the body feel relaxed," says Ward.
Not only can protein fill us up and provide great energy, making us less likely to experience cravings between meals, but it can also make us have a more positive outlook on life by balancing our hormones. Great sources include legumes, lean proteins, such as beef and turkey, ancient grains, such as quinoa, and egg whites. "Many nutritionists have found that a mid-afternoon snack packed full of protein can improve your energy levels and mood. By regulating your blood sugar, protein helps you avoid mood swings (AKA feeling “hangry”) as well as anxiety or depression," says co-founder and CEO of New Zealand Jerky, Steve McKee, over email with Bustle.
4. Vitamin D
Studies show that vitamin D can reduce depressive symptoms, and that is why the blues, and seasonal affective disorder, are more likely in wintertime, due to darkness and weakened sunlight exposure, as opposed to summertime, when light is abundant. Eating organic wild salmon or grass-feed beef are great options, suggests Bruno, as well as eggs, says Mike Starks, CEO of Personal Trainer Food, over email with Bustle. Plus, "bacon and eggs provide an excellent source of high protein and low carbohydrate energy that will keep your blood sugars and mood stable all day long," he adds. "Great sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish, canned tuna, mushrooms, and of course sunlight," says Darin Hulslander, CEO and owner of DNS Performance and Nutrition, LLC, over email with Bustle.
5. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
"There have been a number of recent scientific studies that have yielded some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can have anti-depressant effects," says Chicago-based therapist Chelsea Hudson, LCPC, over email with Bustle. "It is believed that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids leads to excessive activity in the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) which plays a large role in emotion regulation. Omega-3 fatty acids can be readily found in both fish and fish-oil supplements," she adds. You can also consume in olive oil, walnuts and chia and flax seeds.
"L-tryptophan is another nutrient that could contribute towards a more positive mood," says Hudson. "L-tryptophan is an amino acid that acts as a building block for serotonin, the neurotransmitter involved in positive mood states. L-tryptophan is not made by our bodies so it’s important that we consume it either via food or supplement form. Foods high in tryptophan include eggs, salmon, almonds and cheese," she recommends.
"Fiber keeps you regular, which will certainly make you feel better as well," says Dr. Chris Mohr, a Reebok Nutrition Expert, over email with Bustle."Most people eat about a half to a third of the total amount of fiber needed daily," he adds."One of my favorite foods that combines both protein and fiber, are pistachios - with 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein per serving, they're a great snack. Pistachios actually have the nickname the happy nut, because from the shell opening, it looks like a smile," he adds, a fun side-note!
8. Healthy Fats
In addition to omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish, flax seeds and olive oil, other healthy fats, such as mono- and poly-unsaturated fats can also regulate our moods and hormones. "Avocado, olive oil, canola oil, egg yolks, nuts, hemp seeds - are all great choices and should be part of the diet," says Mohr. These foods have tons of other nutrients to help us relax, such as magnesium, as well.
Foods and beverages that contain probiotic powers, such as kombucha, kefir, Greek yogurt, kimchi, miso, and other fermented vegetables, can make our stomaches feel at ease and make us have a more positive outlook on life. The type and amount of healthy bacteria found in our guts can impact our wellbeing and mood, and so by eating probiotic foods, we can promote optimal bacterial health.
This antioxidant can make us feel happier and more relaxed. A "few ounces of dark chocolate (70% or higher), the higher the percentage, the better, " suggests Bruno, is a great way to consume this antioxidant and boost mood without overdoing it on a sugary indulgence. Plus, polyphenols might also boost brain health, as well! Other options include green tea and red wine.
11. Vitamin B6
A deficiency in B6 can result in depressive symptoms, brain fog and possibly anemia. Because vitamin B6 is responsible for neurotransmitter signals, it can result in weakened messaging and a weakened immune system if not consumed regularly. Bruno suggests consuming chickpeas and green peas, which are high in the nutrient. It can also be found in chicken breast, fish and fortified cereals.
Experts share that magnesium can help us feel happier and less stressed. Great sources of magnesium include nuts, such as almond or cashews, as well as leafy greens and soy products. Magnesium helps produce serotonin, which can promote a positive mood. Try tofu or edamame for a snack rich in magnesium, calcium and protein for ultimate happiness points.
Studies show that chromium can work directly with our hormones to regulate our mood and balance blood sugar levels, which in turn can make us have newfound positive outlook on life. When our blood is balanced, we are better able to regular our moods and fight irritability, and we can also promote optimal hormone functionality. Great sources include raw onion and garlic, broccoli, grape juice and potatoes.
Beyond eating wisely to gain energy, satiety and pleasure, it's also important to take note of how certain nutrients operate within the body and to maximize the amount of happiness and positivity you can reap on a daily basis. By including these staples in your diet, you'll be able to fight away sadness and start feeling happier and healthier in everything that comes your way.
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