Foods and Vitamins to Boost Your Mood
Mind Boosting Nutrients
Nutrition plays a massive role in how we feel overall, and what we consume is critical for keeping our energy levels where we need them to be to feel our best.
Avoid These Foods and Drinks to Keep Your Energy Up
To boost your energy levels, it's important to focus on consuming foods and drinks that provide sustained energy and avoid those that may cause energy crashes or fluctuations. Here are some food and drink items to avoid if you want to keep your energy up:
- Sugary foods and drinks: While sugary foods and drinks can give you a quick energy boost, they are often followed by a crash. These include candies, soda, sugary snacks and desserts. The rapid spike in blood sugar levels is typically followed by a drop, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish.
- Processed and fast foods: Highly processed foods and fast food meals tend to be high in unhealthy fats, added sugars and refined carbohydrates. These can lead to a rapid rise in blood sugar levels and subsequent crashes. Additionally, these foods lack essential nutrients and can leave you feeling low on energy.
- Fried and greasy foods: Foods that are deep-fried or high in unhealthy fats can be heavy on the digestive system, leading to sluggishness and fatigue. They require more energy to digest, diverting resources away from other bodily functions.
- Energy drinks: While energy drinks may seem like a quick fix, they often contain high amounts of caffeine, sugar and other stimulants. While they may provide a temporary boost, the subsequent crash can leave you feeling even more fatigued than before.
- White bread and refined grains: Foods made with refined grains, such as white bread, white rice and sugary cereals, lack fiber and essential nutrients. These refined carbohydrates are quickly digested and can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by an energy crash.
Low Glycemic Index Foods
Delicious low glycemic index foods include high-fiber veggies, whole grains such as quinoa, barley, brown rice, nuts and healthy oils. It's well known that plain drinking water is a must throughout our day; feelings of fatigue are often due to dehydration. A Vitamin B12 deficiency may be the reason why you feel tired or weak. While a B12 supplement may be right for you, the best way to get everything your body needs is from food. Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include beef liver, clams and fish, while many kinds of cereal are fortified with this energy-boosting vitamin.
Other B Vitamins also play a crucial role in warding off tiredness, improving clear thinking and maintaining a healthy mind. These B vitamins can be found in dairy, lean pork, fish and eggs. The Washington Post reports, "A healthy cognitive system is essential to regulating mood, and certain nutrients have a profound impact on maintaining normal brain function.” These nutrients can be found in a healthy diet, with all the necessary foods found in your local grocery store. The nutrients that fight depression and improve mood include the already discussed B and D vitamins and calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.
There are other mood-boosting foods too! Add beans, lentils, lean proteins and fatty fish to your next meal. John Hopkins Medicine also recommends a healthy diet to optimize energy levels. By eating primarily whole foods, you can renew energy levels with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. John Hopkins Medicine goes on to say that eating too much fatty meat, particularly red meat, saps our energy due to the length of time it takes for our digestive system to process.
Feeling Less than Your Best?
It's natural to have days when you just don’t feel at your best, but if you feel tired, stressed and lacking energy on more days than not, it's time to make positive life changes like adding energy-boosting foods to your diet. Your first step is to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare team; having an honest conversation with an expert will provide great insight into why you feel the way you are.
Looking after your mental health is just as important, perhaps even more so, than looking after your physical health. In reality, the two systems go hand in hand, and when we work toward improving one, the other system naturally benefits! For example, consider the mood boosts you receive from your natural endorphins when you complete a great workout; endorphins are beneficial for reducing stress levels, having a sunnier outlook and getting better sleep. Brain energy is needed to meet all our essential tasks, so fuel up!
A rich, full life filled with family, work, hobbies, volunteerism and play requires us to have a full tank of energy. However, there are times we just don't “feel up to it.” Do not downplay or brush these negative feelings off as simply having an off day. You may need to discuss your feelings with your healthcare team and consider the lack of energy-boosting foods in your diet and activities may impact your energy. John Hopkins Medicine states that:
Most people experience times when they feel unhappy, restless or irritable. There are several natural methods for boosting your mood and treatments to discuss with your doctor if natural methods aren’t effective.
Consider your own diet. Is your daily diet rich in whole grains, leafy vegetables and vitamin-dense foods? Have you considered taking supplements such as Vitamin B12? Certain foods can make you crave the couch (think a fatty burger), while other foods provide a much-needed energy boost so that you can move on with your next passion project! Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, tends to be more challenging to obtain during the dark winter months, so a Vitamin D supplement might be right for you.
If you are concerned about your diet, meet with a registered dietician or nutritionist to get you on the right track. A balanced diet with veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean meats is the way to go. In addition, Harvard Health recommends eating intentionally to maintain energy levels:
Eating foods with a low glycemic index — whose sugars are absorbed slowly — may help you avoid the lag in energy that typically occurs after eating quickly absorbed sugars or refined starches.
John Hopkins Medicine suggests that when we address our physical and mental health at once, both systems win, as does our overall health:
Taking steps to improve physical health can help boost mood and ward off depression. For example, many types of exercise have mood-boosting benefits, especially if they involve being outdoors. Try walking, playing a team sport or pumping iron at the gym.
So, by combining physical activity with sound nutrition every single day, our energy levels can be optimized, maintained and fully utilized! By adding energy-boosting foods to your routine and finding ways to be more active, you will naturally and positively increase your energy!