Start the day with a nutritious energy boost including foods that support digestion and mood. Certain foods have been shown to improve brain health and mood disorders. Aim for wholesome foods that enhance overall health. Here are ways to start your day with a smile.

Coffee

Coffee and tea, the world’s most popular beverages, make the world a happier place. The caffeine in coffee prevents a naturally occurring compound called adenosine from attaching to brain receptors that promote tiredness, therefore increasing alertness and attention. Moreover, it increases the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. For information on brain chemicals and depression: See “Healing Depression Naturally”

Research: Coffee and Mood

Studies have found that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee significantly improve mood compared with a placebo beverage. Researchers attributed this boost in attitude to various phenolic compounds, such as chlorogenic acid. These compounds have a number of beneficial health properties related to their potent antioxidant activity.

“The relatively high levels of phenolic acids, particularly of chlorogenic acids and related compounds, in coffee seeds reflect their physiological importance for the coffee plant, as well as their significant contribution to aroma and flavor formation of coffee beverage. Genetic factors such as species and variety, the degree of maturation, and to some extent environmental conditions and agricultural practices, are important determinants of the composition of chlorogenic acids in green coffee beans, and will also affect the composition of the final beverage.”

An important Note: Coffee grown in the shade uses pesticides and sun-grown coffee fields like those in small batch private organic farming avoid pesticides.

Dark Chocolate

Enrich your coffee with unsweetened cocoa powder. Chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting compounds. Its sugar may improve mood since it’s a quick source of fuel for your brain. Chocolate may release a cascade of feel-good compounds, such as caffeine, theobromine, and a small amount of N-acylethanolamine, a substance chemically similar to cannabinoids that has been linked to improved mood. Dark chocolate is high in health-promoting flavonoids, which have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health which may support mood regulation.

The Feel Good Food

Chocolate has a high hedonic rating. Its pleasurable taste, texture, and smell promotes good mood. Because milk chocolate contains added ingredients like sugar and fat, it’s best to opt for semi-sweet or unsweetened dark chocolate which is higher in flavonoids and lower in added sugar. You should still stick to 1–2 small squares (of 70% or more cocoa solids) at a time since it’s a high calorie food.

Teas

Academy of Healing Nutrition blog has various articles concerning the health benefits of teas, including its taste, origins and especially its enlivening effects. Here is one

Oats

Morning oatmeal is comforting, satisfying as well as healthy. Oats are a whole grain that keeps you in good spirits all morning. You can enjoy them as oatmeal, muesli, and granola but oats soaked overnight adding ½ tsp lemon juice is more healthy because it eliminates irritating acids and contains no added sugar or chemical preservatives. Oats are an excellent source of fiber, providing 8 grams in a single raw cup (81 grams.) Fiber helps to slow digestion of carbs, allowing for a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream to keep your energy and blood sugar levels stable.

Oat Nutrition

Oats are especially advantageous, as a great source of iron, with 1 raw cup (81 grams) boasting 19% of your daily needs. Iron deficiency anemia symptoms include fatigue, sluggishness, and mood disorders. Some research suggests that people experience improvements in these symptoms after eating iron-rich foods.

On your Oatmeal: Berries, Nuts, Seeds, Yogurt, Banana or Bacon

Berries

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to lower rates of depression. They grow in sunshine! Enjoy them fresh or dried which concentrates flavor. A diet rich in antioxidants helps manage inflammation associated with depression and other mood disorders. Berries provide a wide range of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play a key role in combating oxidative stress an imbalance of harmful compounds in the body. If you can’t find them fresh, try buying frozen berries which are frozen at their peak ripeness to retain the maximum amount of antioxidants. Use frozen berries as ice cubes in drinks.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are high in the Big Three: plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fiber. Additionally, they provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources. Do not forget chia seeds for protein and kalonji (black cumin, Nigella sativa) seeds that are high in health-giving antioxidants, protects the liver and is anti-inflammatory. Nuts and seeds are a large component of the Mediterranean diet which supports a healthy brain. Finally, certain nuts and seeds such as Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts, are good sources of zinc and selenium. Deficiency in these minerals, which are important for brain function, is associated with higher rates of depression.

Yogurt: Fermented foods

Since up to 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, a healthy gut may enhance a good mood. Fermented foods rich in probiotics, which include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, improve gut health and mood. The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids. During this process, probiotics are created. These live microorganisms support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and may increase serotonin levels. (It’s important to note that not all fermented foods are significant sources of probiotics, for example, beer, some breads, and wine, due to cooking and filtering.)

Bananas

There are over 100 species of bananas. We know of only one or two in America. They’re high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This may be true especially for women: Researchers suspect that B6 helps with emotional symptoms related to PMS due to its role in creating neurotransmitters that regulate mood. A three-month study in over 60 premenopausal women found that taking 50 mg of vitamin B6 daily improved PMS symptoms of depression, irritability and tiredness by 69%.

One large banana(136 grams) provides 16 grams of sugar and 3.5 grams of fiber. When paired with fiber, sugar is released into our bloodstream more slowly, allowing for stable blood sugar levels and better mood control. Blood sugar levels that are too low may lead to irritability and mood swings.

Prebiotic Green Banana

Especially when still green, unripe banana is an excellent source of prebiotics a type of un-digestible fiber that ferments in the gut and therefore helps to feed healthy bacteria in the gut. A robust gut microbiome is associated with lower rates of mood disorders and helps prevent leaky gut.

Mexican Eats: Beans and Egg Wrap

In addition to being high in fiber and plant-based protein, beans and lentils are full of feel-good nutrients. They’re an excellent source of B vitamins, which help improve mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), all of which are important for regulating mood. Furthermore, B vitamins play a key role in nerve signaling, which allows proper communication between nerve cells. Low levels of these vitamins, especially B12 and folate, have been linked to mood disorders, such as depression. Finally, they’re a good source of zinc, magnesium, selenium, and non-heme iron, which may likewise elevate low spirits.

Sprouted mung beans or lentils are easy to make, crunchy, fresh, a tasty addition to just about anything. People with weak digestion or the elderly may prefer to steam sprouts.

Sweet Carbs and Fiber

Eating whole, nutrient-rich carb sources like sweet potatoes helps to lower cortisol. Chronic stress can lead to cortisol dysfunction, which may cause inflammation, pain, and other adverse effects. No surprise that in women with excess weight or obesity, a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense carbs had significantly lower levels of salivary cortisol than those who followed a standard American diet high in refined carbs. Sweet potatoes are a whole food that makes an excellent carb choice. They’re packed with nutrients that are important for stress response, such as vitamin C and potassium. Here is a quick recipe:

Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 3 sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • Pumpkin pie spice or your favorite combination, including powdered ginger, pepper, clove, cinnamon, allspice, star anise
  • A prepared pie crust
Heat the oven to 375 degrees
Simmer the sweet potatoes until slightly tender, not overcooked. Mash them, add the egg and spices. (Optional) sweetener such as 1 tsp vanilla extract, maple syrup or stevia . . . Bake for 45 minutes until slightly browned on top. Cool it before cutting.

Supplements that Reduce Stress, Improve Sleep, Boost Mood

Stress is caused by many things, such as a job, money, health, or relationship factors. Several supplements have been linked to reduced stress, including Rhodiola rosea, melatonin, glycine, and ashwagandha.

L-theanine in tea, B complex vitamins, and kava may also help increase the body’s resistance to life’s stressors. Rhodiola, native to China, Tibet, and Russia is a valued adaptogen and heart tonic. For more information on rhodiola see: Valentines: Herbs for a Healthy Heart

It is wise to check with a healthcare provider before trying a new supplement, especially if you’re taking medications, are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant. Even better, become a nutritional health expert though the enjoyable, comprehensive certificate program provided at Academy of Healing Nutrition, New York, London. Join a community of natural health and beauty minded friends for a lifetime.