Have you ever noticed how certain foods have the ability to lift your spirits? These feelings of happiness might be because you’ve made the decision to treat yourself to something healthy and nourishing (when what you’re really craving is something sugary, salty, or boozy) to alleviate your bad mood. Or it could simply be the knowledge that the foods you’re regularly eating help your body to function at its best that puts a smile on your face. The following foods have the potential to make you feel stronger, happier, and more empowered as you move through your day (and they all just happen to be delicious as well as mood-lifting.)
Salmon and other oily fish (such as sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, and trout) are rich sources of DHA and EPA omega-3 long-chain fatty acids. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) have been studied for their myriad health benefits including their effects on depression, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. The Canadian Food Guide recommends two servings of 150 grams of fatty fish per week (if you don’t have a food scale, that’s about the size of your open palm).
The pulse family includes chickpeas, beans, peas, and lentils which gives you dozens (if not hundreds!) of ways to incorporate these tiny yet nutritionally-dense foods into your regular eating plan. Pulses are a fantastic source of fibre and protein, which work together to keep you feeling fuller and more energized for a longer period of time. Protein is well-known for its ability to stave off feelings of hunger and when combined with complex carbohydrates (which are slow to digest) the sensation is compounded. The Canadian Food Guide recommends eating pulses “often” which could be in the form of salads, veggie burgers, curry, soup, or seasonal pulse-based bowls.
Dark leafy greens
In case you need some extra encouragement to eat your greens (and let’s be honest, many of us do) consider the fact that dark leafy greens could have a potentially positive effect on your mood and energy levels throughout the day. Dark leafy greens such as arugula, spinach and romaine lettuce contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and can be eaten in large volumes, especially when steamed or sautéed. All dark leafy greens are excellent sources of energy-boosting fibre as well as folate, an important B-vitamin your body uses to turn carbohydrates into energy and to create white and red blood cells. The Canadian Food Guide advises aiming for a serving of dark leafy greens every day; make it a habit by adding them to scrambled eggs, tucking them into sandwiches, having a small salad every day, or dipping green veggies into hummus.
Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables
The act of prepping and eating a wide variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables can sometimes be enough to bring a smile to your face, it’s hard to resist the gorgeous, feel-good hues of these foods. Vividly coloured produce is packed with flavonoids, the actual pigment which determines the colour of fruits and vegetables, and these flavonoids are full of powerful antioxidants. Carrots, squash, bell peppers, apricots, sweet potatoes, and mangoes can thank carotenoids for their vibrant sunny colour, a type of flavonoid that your body converts into vitamin A, a nutrient that boosts overall immune health. Phenolic flavonoids, which are found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables such as red cabbage, eggplant, and blueberries, have anti-inflammatory properties that help with health cognitive function. Tomatoes, beets, radishes, and rhubarb (along with other red fruits and vegetables) are currently being researched for the role they play in maintaining healthy memory function. Try to include several servings of rainbow-coloured fruits and veggies every day, your body (and brain) will thank you for it!