We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat.” This phrase, of course, is meant to be taken figuratively because of the connection between food and mood. And for National Nutrition Month, The Calli Institute wants to encourage you to eat well so you feel well. Let’s explore some tips and tricks to feed your mental wellness – for this month and beyond.

The Food and Mood Connection

When people say to trust your gut, it’s for good reason. The countless microorganisms housed within it are responsible for more than breaking down food. They also produce some of the neurotransmitters that communicate with our brains to regulate temperament and emotions.

Serotonin is one of those neurotransmitters and is found mostly in the digestive system. Known as “the happy chemical,” serotonin controls mood and happiness, among other things. And eating certain foods – such as spinach, eggs, and salmon – helps the body naturally increase serotonin production, which in turn boosts mood and your overall well-being.

The Perks of Nourishing Your Body

Just as gasoline powers your car, think of the food you eat as fuel for your body. You want to provide premium grade fare to get the most output, in terms of energy and frame of mind. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet contributes to a host of benefits that can last a lifetime.

Boosts self-esteem. When you eat better, your body looks and feels better. This translates to a newfound sense of accomplishment that helps you feel good about yourself.

Promotes brain health. Nutrient-rich foods help improve brain function and maintain cognition as we age. Supplying the brain with essential vitamins and minerals may also help prevent mental health issues like depression.

Increases energy levels. Simply put, food is energy. A balanced diet of proteins, fats, minerals, and complex carbohydrates helps provide a steady stream of energy to keep you moving throughout the day.

Improves mood. The right combination of foods and nutrients help the brain produce and distribute chemicals throughout your body to improve overall mood.

With a balanced diet – along with exercise and rest, of course – your body will have the fuel it needs to help you face each day with a smile.

An Extra Helping

So, what are the foods to help boost your mood? We wanted to highlight a few, some of which may surprise you. The next time you’re shopping or dishing up your plate, consider a helping of these entrees, sides, and desserts (yep, desserts!) to promote balance within your diet, body, and mind.

  • Beans: Beans increase neurotransmitter levels to help improve overall mood. They’re also a good source of B vitamins, which help promote nerve cell communication.
  • Fish: Foods like salmon and white meat tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce on its own. Some types of omega-3s have been shown to benefit certain facets of physical and mental health.
  • Fermented foods: The fermentation process for foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut creates probiotics with live bacteria. These microorganisms then help increase serotonin levels in your gut, which improves mood and stress management.
  • Bananas: High in vitamin B6, bananas help the body produce “happy chemicals” like serotonin and dopamine.
  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains nutrients and compounds that increase blood flow to the brain and act as anti-depressants. Additionally, its pleasing taste and smell promote positive feelings, too. Just be sure to enjoy in moderation.
  • Coffee: Your morning cup of joe keeps you alert and encourages the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters.
  • Nuts: Certain nuts – like almonds, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts – and seeds, like pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower, contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin.

These are only some of the foods that, when added to your diet, can help improve mood, energy, and overall well-being. If you want to alter your diet to see how small changes can benefit you, we recommend doing so gradually, adding more nutrient-rich foods a little at a time. And while what you eat certainly plays a role in how you feel, we also suggest talking to a trained professional if you have lingering concerns about your mental health.

Get Support from the Experts

Fueling your body with good-for-you foods helps feed your mental wellness and is an important step toward feeling your best. If you’d like to know more about how nutritional changes can improve your mood and energy, The Calli Institute is here to answer your questions. Let us know your goals, and our collaborative team of mental health professionals will provide the tools to help you find your personalized path to wellness.

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