How To Boost Your Mood With Food

by ksteed
How To Boost Your Mood With Food

An estimated 18 million Americans struggle with a clinical depressive disorder. Many more face frequent mood challenges associated with stress, sleep deprivation, disability and hormonal shifts. And while psychotherapy and medications often play a valuable role in managing depressive moods, additional helpful tools await you in your very own kitchen. 

Cooking requires all of your senses: smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. Because it also requires concentration, preparing your favorite pasta sauce, cookies or casserole can help distract you from your worries and provide a sense of accomplishment once your goodies are complete. Regardless of where you fall on the “blues” barometer, the following mood-boosting cooking challenges can help:

A Candlelight Dinner for One
Cooking provides a tremendous means of self-nurturing. If you deem a bowl of cereal, frozen entree or your child’s leftovers reasonable dinner fare, ask yourself this: would you serve corn-pops or half-nibbled sandwiches to a beloved friend? Most likely not. Using whatever cooking skills you’ve acquired, create a meal for you and you alone. Serve it on your best dishes, in a pleasurable, calm atmosphere. Light candles. Play relaxing music. Do whatever you can to enhance the ambiance while pleasing your taste buds.

Incorporate Mood-Boosting Foods
Typical American diets lack whole grains, fruits, vegetables and essential fats, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Emphasizing nutritious foods in your concoctions can guard against mood problems linked with nutrient deficiencies. Swap refined foods, such as white bread and instant noodles, with barley, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and oats. Add color to your dishes with fruits and vegetables. Incorporating some amount of healthy fat into each meal enhances nutrient absorption, brain function and moods. Top sources include fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil.

Allow Some Wiggle Room
Dieting is seldom effective and can lead to increased stress, anxiety and depressive moods. Rather than view foods as “good” and “bad” or punish yourself for indulging, allow modest amounts of foods you consume purely for enjoyment - be they nutritious or not.

Here's a mood-boosting recipe to try today:

Feel-Good Granola 

1/3 C. sunflower seeds
1/3 C. sesame seeds
1/3 C. chopped walnuts
2 C. old-fashioned oats
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
1 C. dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots...)
1/4 C. dark chocolate chips (optional)

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet. Bake for one hour, or until the granola appears golden brown, flipping it with a spatula every 10 to 15 minutes. Allow granola to cool before adding chocolate chips.

August McLaughlin is a health writer and certified nutritionist in Los Angeles. She holds specializations in eating disorders and healthy weight management and serves as the primary nutritionist at Bridges to Recovery, a private, residential behavioral health program in Southern California for adults with psychiatric disorders.

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