Plenty of little things can give you a case of the blues, and some are simply beyond your control. What is within your control? Making some smart moves to improve your physical and mental state when the road gets bumpy. Even though you can't open your kitchen cabinet door and have a good mood jump out at you, a few items on those shelves can gently help you feel more upbeat.
1. Canned fish (salmon, sardines, herring, tuna)
4. Dried crimini mushrooms
5. Extra-dark chocolate
7. Fortified whole-grain cereals
9. Zinc-fortified cerealsSee how to get these foods into your daily diet.
Eat some happy fish.
The reasons for eating omega-3 rich fish keep piling up-especially when it comes to improving your state of mind. Researchers now know that omega-3s can improve mood problems by influencing the brain's "happy-making" neurotransmitters and by lessening inflammation that can damage brain cells. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that when middle-aged women with symptoms of mild psychological distress took 1.5 grams of omega-3s (about the amount in a 3-ounce can of salmon) daily for eight weeks, their symptoms improved significantly. If you like sardines, you can get even more mood-boosting omega-3s: A 3-ounce can of sardines packed in sardine oil contains 3.3 grams. Unfortunately, you can't expect one can of fish to blast you into a sunnier state of mind. Plan on eating a serving of canned fish, especially sardines and herring, several times a week. If you're not a fish eater, take a daily fish oil supplement instead.
Make the Salmon Sandwiches With Wasabi Mayonnaise
Boost your B6.
If you don't get enough vitamin B6, your mood might not be all that it could be. In fact, this nutrient's deficiency symptoms include fatigue and malaise. As many as 50 percent of women don't get enough; some 15 percent get less than 25 percent of their B6 needs. Getting even 1 milligram less of this vital nutrient can short-circuit your nervous system. What's more, vitamin B6 deficiencies are linked to depression. Women under 50 need 1.2 milligrams a day; women over 50 need 1.5 milligrams. Men under 50 need 1.3 milligrams; over 50, 1.7 milligrams. Good pantry sources include yellowfin tuna (also known as "light"), salmon, dried crimini mushrooms, and flaxseeds.
Have a hearty breakfast cereal.
Folic acid is called folate when it occurs naturally in food; folic acid is the synthetic form of this B vitamin found in supplements and added to fortified foods. And nearly 40 percent of people diagnosed with depression have folic acid deficiencies. When they start eating foods rich in folic acid, guess what? They begin to feel happier. Adults need 400 micrograms a day (women contemplating pregnancy and pregnant women need 600 micrograms). Some whole-grain breakfast cereals are fortified with a daily supply in one serving; read labels carefully to be sure. Other great sources of folate sitting in your pantry include lentils (358 micrograms in 1 cup of cooked lentils) and chickpeas (282 micrograms in 1 cup of cooked chickpeas).
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Toss cashews on those bran flakes.
Italian researchers discovered that blood levels of zinc are consistently lower in people with depression. A serving of a fortified breakfast cereals gives you 25 percent of your daily requirement. Toss in an ounce of tasty, crunchy cashews, and you'll get an extra-big zinc boost.
Savor a chocolate mood-lifter.
Go ahead-reach for a few pieces of extra-dark chocolate the next time you feel a little blue. This delicacy interacts with the brain's chemical messengers responsible for regulating mood. French scientists recently learned more about its mood-lifting effects: When they gave rats some chocolate extract, the rats passed depression tests with flying colors. (Wonder how scientists figure out whether or not rats are depressed? It's simple. They put the rodents into a cylinder filled with water. Happy rats try to escape. Unhappy rats don't. All are rescued.)