Food and Nutrition

Can Certain Foods Improve Your Mood?

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Can different foods alter your mood? The answer’s yes – sweet potatoes help boost your serotonin, spinach relieves stress, and nutmeg can even make you hallucinate. In a recent article, web site io9 breaks down which foods may make you feel extra good.

Chili peppers are on the feelgood list: it’s not known exactly why, but some people who eat large amounts of spicy food seem to experience endorphin rushes. Scientists have yet to conduct studies on whether chili peppers contain a substance that releases endorphins.

Spinach contains magnesium, which makes you feel calmer, and calcium, which works with magnesium to stabilize your sleep and generally chill you out. Black beans, artichokes and broccoli are also high in magnesium. Watch out for conventionally grown spinach – the Environmental Working Group recently put it on its Dirty Dozen list of foods most exposed to pesticides. Buy organic if you can.

Myristicin is the magic ingredient that allows you to get high off nutmeg. However, in order to get a buzz, you have to consume so much of the spice that it will probably make you sick before it does anything remotely hallucinogenic – plus the effects can last for several days. It’s not known whether small amounts of nutmeg, like the quantities you’d use in recipes, can improve your mood.

Sweet potatoes contain starch, which is known to increase serotonin levels. If you’re going to use starch as a mood elevator, make sure you’re going for unrefined starch like whole-grain bread and root vegetables, rather than refined starch such as white sugar. Whole-grain starch will make your serotonin levels rise more gradually, without the blood-sugar crash associated with refined starches.

Last but not least: chocolate. It’s not only the sugar in chocolate that makes you feel good – it’s also the anandamides, feel-good chemicals in cocoa beans that may produce a similar mood-elevating reaction to marijuana. Theobromine, which has a stimulant effect, can also be found in chocolate.

Originally published at GrannyMed