One of the very best ways to care for your body is to feed it well. By that I mean giving it foods that will not only make your body healthier, but make you feel good as well. In this post, I want to share with you some excellent foods for lifting your mood, boosting your libido and improving your mental function. Including these foods in your diet, coupled with the emotional and psychological benefits of getting fit, will do wonders for your enjoyment of life and your appreciation of all your hard work.
Foods that Lift Your Mood
There are a number of micronutrients that have a direct and demonstrated effect on your emotions. Numerous studies have shown that certain foods can make you feel calmer, give you a sense of peace and even make you feel downright happy. In fact, there is a good deal of research going on right now on using certain micronutrients (like Omega-3 fats) to treat depression and anxiety. The power of nutrition should not be underestimated when it comes to what it can do for your mind or your mood.
Walnuts: Walnuts are high in magnesium, which boosts your levels of the feel-good chemical, serotonin. Magnesium also helps to regulate your blood sugar, which can keep your moods more stable. A deficiency of magnesium has been linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia, but daily doses of magnesium through foods like walnuts have been shown to help elevate your mood, even when you’re going through the erratic mood swings of menopause or menstruation. Walnuts are also a good source of Omega-3 fats, which we’ll talk more about in just a moment.
Salmon: Salmon (and other cold-water fish such as mackerel, haddock, sardines and cod) is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Most people associate Omega-3 fats with cardiovascular health, but we know that Omega-3 fats also have a huge impact on how well you think and how well you feel. Salmon is also rich in Vitamin D. In fact, it’s one of the best non-dairy sources of this micronutrient that has been shown to decrease sadness and depression.
Bananas: Bananas are considered a go-to food because of their high potassium content, but these delicious fruits are also loaded with magnesium and are a great source of Vitamin B-6, which not only gives you an energy boost but also support the function of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, both of which help you feel peaceful and calm.
Dark chocolate: A few years ago, research on the antioxidant content of dark chocolate made women around the world rejoice. But dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), is also a mood enhancer. You may have thought chocolate just made you happy because you loved the taste, but it actually enhances production of both serotonin and dopamine. Don’t go overboard, though; a one-inch square is enough to satisfy you and lift your mood without blowing your diet or making your blood sugar go nuts.
Turkey: You know that calm, slightly sleepy feeling you get after eating Thanksgiving dinner? Some of it is due to the micronutrients that help produce tryptophan in your body. Tryptophan tends to get a bad rap because it can make you sleepy, but tryptophan actually boosts the production of both serotonin and niacin, both of which help you feel calm and content. If you don’t care for turkey, dried beans are also a good source.
Spinach: Like bananas, spinach is very high in folate (Vitamin B-6), which helps boost your serotonin levels. Spinach is one of the best foods you can eat during menstruation, since the iron content will help replenish your supply while the B-6 combats PMS. Saute some with a little olive oil and garlic and you can add the mood-stabilizing effects of Omega-3 fats.
Foods that Lift Your Libido
A healthy libido boosts self-confidence, enhances your life and relationship and is necessary for a sense of vitality and well-being. Unfortunately, fatigue, stress, lack of exercise and a poor diet can all send our libido crashing. These foods can help boost it back up.
Avocadoes: Avocadoes are one of the best foods you can eat for your heart and circulatory system. That’s important to your libido, because arousal and orgasm both require extra blood flow to certain parts of the body. With their silky texture and beautiful flavor, avocadoes are also just plain sexy to eat.
Hot Peppers: Hot peppers, both as a fresh food and as a powder (chili powder or cayenne pepper) are also great for increased blood flow. They act as a vasodilator, opening your veins to promote healthy circulation. They also raise your body temperature a bit, which (like a hot summer day at the beach) can help put you into the mood. So go for the spicy foods if you’re planning on a little romance later.
Oysters: No, it’s not a cliché. These delicious little creatures are one of the best nutritional sources of zinc, a mineral that’s known to boost libido. It even boosts sperm production in men and can help with erectile issues, so make it an order for two. Eating oysters is also a very sensual experience, with the texture of silk and the flavor of the
ocean. If you can’t stand oysters, sesame seeds and almonds are also good sources of zinc.
Watermelon: Watermelon is one of the go-to fruits for bodybuilders everywhere. You’ll be happy to know that watermelon is also one of the best foods you can eat for your libido. A recent study at Texas A & M found that the high content of several phytonutrients, especially beta-carotene, lycopene and citrulline, actually helps to increase sex drive and performance. This is great news for those of us who thought it was just a sweet treat due to its high water and fiber content.
Foods to Boost Your Brain Function
Nothing gets you down like having too much to do and not enough brain power to get it all done. Flagging mental energy leads to fatigue, fogginess, a lack of focus and poor memory, all of which can stress us out and keep us from reaching our goals. Unfortunately, we tend to run for sugary, caffeinated and carbohydrate-rich foods when we’re feeling a little foggy. Those may give us an immediate energy boost, but they’ll very quickly leave us feeling worse than before.
These foods can help boost your cognitive function (and your mood) so that you can get through your day with a sense of accomplishment.
Berries: Berries are a sweet treat that boost our energy but have enough fiber to prevent sudden spikes (and subsequent drops) in blood sugar. They also contain phytochemicals that have been shown to prevent mental decline. Instead of grabbing a soda or coffee during an afternoon slump, reach for a baggie of fresh berries and walnuts (for the Omega-3 fats and selenium).
Wheat Germ: Wheat germ is loaded with choline, which your body uses in the production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine improves memory and focus, making wheat germ a great food to toss into your smoothies or protein shakes or to sprinkle over cut fruit or into oatmeal. It has a great nutty taste that you’ll really enjoy.
Carrots: Carrots are loaded with luteolin, which has been shown to reduce the effects of aging on cognitive function. In a more immediate way, raw carrots can also boost your focus by giving you some crunch. Eating crunchy foods has been shown in several studies to help you concentrate. This may be why we tend to reach for a bag of chips or some nuts when we “need to think.”
Several of the foods we’ve already discussed are just as good for your brain as they are for your mood or your libido. Fatty fish, olive oil and avocadoes provide brain-friendly Omega-3 fats. Spinach is loaded with lutein and with Vitamin E, which has been shown to support dopamine flow and actually increase brain tissue.
By including these foods in your diet each week, you can keep your libido humming and be happy enough and focused enough to do something about it! Get at least a few from each group into your daily diet and vary them from week to week to get a wide range of other micronutrients and prevent boredom as well.