We all have bad days. And many of us, myself included, turn to tried and true comfort foods to lift our spirits. (I bet my friends Ben & Jerry are at your house too.)
Hopefully your bad days are few and far between, but when they do unexpectedly pop up, here are three scientifically tested foods worth trying instead:
Fruits & Vegetables (and other whole foods): Yes, you read that right—healthy, whole foods! In a recent study of close to 3,500 men and women published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, those who reported eating a diet rich in whole foods in the previous year were less likely to report feeling depressed than those who ate lots of desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.
Bummer, Ben & Jerry didn’t make the cut…
Previous studies have shown that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids in fish are associated with lower risk of depression. Folate, a B vitamin found in dark green vegetables like spinach, beans and citrus, affects neurotransmitters that impact mood. It’s possible that the protective effect of the whole-food diet comes from a cumulative effect of these nutrients. (Here are 5 quick dinners that pack in the produce.)
Keep reading, the list gets better!
Carbs: In a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people who for a year followed a very-low-carbohydrate diet—which allowed only 20 to 40 grams of carbs daily, about the amount in just 1⁄2 cup of rice plus one piece of bread—experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet that focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruit and beans. Researchers suspect that carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. Also, the challenge of following such a restrictive low-carb diet for a full year may have negatively impacted mood. (Here are 20+ healthy ways to dress up a box of pasta.)
Chocolate: Eating dark chocolate (1.4 ounces of it, to be exact) every day for two weeks reduced stress hormones, including cortisol, in people who were highly stressed, a study done at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland recently found. Experts believe it could be thanks to the antioxidants in chocolate.
(Psst: Be sure to account for the 235 calories that 1.4 ounces of chocolate delivers—or you may be stressed to see extra pounds creeping on.)
What foods lift your spirits? Tell us what you think below.