By Tammy Ruggles
If you’re over 50 and sometimes find yourself in a grumpy mood, there is a good reason for that: For men, it could stem from a drop in testosterone, stress, or other physiological or emotional reasons. For women, it could be menopause, low levels of estrogen, or a chemical imbalance. Add this to the normal stress of everyday life—family struggles, financial difficulties, or employment issues—and a bad mood could lead to depression.
But if a doctor visit determines that what you’re experiencing isn’t depression–just your average bad mood, there are ways to lift yourself out of it. These strategies usually include medication, meditation, or exercise, but you can also find mood-boosters right in your own grocery store. The old saying is true: You are what you eat. Some foods have natural ingredients that make us feel better, and here are 10 of them to set you on the way to a bouncier you:
1. Chocolate: You know it, you love it. Chocolate acts as a stimulant and raises our endorphin levels, thus making us feel better. You will want to watch how much you consume, however. Chocolate is notorious for putting on extra pounds. Use it judiciously.
2. Milk: For those who can tolerate lactose: This wholesome-image food contains tryptophan, which is necessary for our brains to produce serotonin, nature’s own Prozac-like chemical that soothes our nerves and calms us.
3. Carbohydrates: This used to be a no-no in the dieting world. Now carbs–sensible carbs, that is–are making a comeback. Even though all carbs will jump-start your mood, you should stay with whole-grain breads and pastas. Donuts, which have simple carbs, are great for an immediate boost, but you’ll soon crash. That’s why eating whole-grain carbs is important.
4. Fish: Fish like salmon contain omega-3 essential fatty acids and B6 and B12 vitamins, which are crucial in raising our serotonin levels and keeping us in a good mood. Other fish you can add to your list include cod, tuna, and mackerel. No wonder fish has been nicknamed “brain food”.
5. Broccoli: While it’s not everyone’s favorite vegetable, it is packed with B vitamins, as well as folic acid, which contribute to higher levels of folate, resulting in higher spirits. You can eat it raw with a dip, or steam it with other vegetables and pour a nice creamy cheese sauce on top. Hide it in a delicious casserole and you’ll barely realize you’re eating it.
6. Coffee: We all know that caffeine is a stimulant, is addictive, and shouldn’t be taken in excess, but studies have shown that people who drink coffee with milk each day are less likely to have depression. It is a popular way to increase energy and metabolism. If plain coffee doesn’t appeal to you, try flavored coffee, like French vanilla, hazelnut, or toffee. Side effects of caffeine include racing heart and trembling hands, and if you decide to kick the caffeine habit, brace yourself: It can be difficult, psychologically and physically.
7. Turkey: Turkey contains an amino acid, phenylalanine, which the brain uses to make dopamine, a neuro-chemical that lifts mood, increases energy, and helps prevent depression. Phenylalanine is found in most meats, so unless you are a vegetarian, eating meat is a good way of keeping you up and running. So don’t wait until Thanksgiving or the holidays to partake in a big roasted turkey. Any time of the year is fine.
8. Blueberries: These little bits of fruit are full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants, which are powerful stress relievers. They’re also low in calories, high in fiber, and help improve our memory. Put some in your yogurt, gelatin dessert, or top with whipped cream.
9. Iron: Usually associated with meat and protein, but vegetarians can find iron in beans, rice, pasta, breads, and cereals. Iron helps bring oxygen to our brains, and an oxygen-filled brain is a happy, productive brain.
10. Brazil nuts: These nuts contain a mineral known as selenium, which prevents depression and helps to balance your mood. Scientists believe that selenium is crucial to a good mood.
All of the above 10 foods may not appeal to you. For example, you may have a nut allergy, or there may be some other reason you can’t partake of a particular food. It’s always best to speak to your doctor to find more ways to boost your mood and raise your energy level. Exercise and rest are two other good ways to achieve this.