10 Mood-Boosting Ingredients to Stock Up On

Alex McKee, MS, RD
by Alex McKee, MS, RD
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10 Mood-Boosting Ingredients to Stock Up On

In times of stress, research shows it’s beneficial to reach for nutrient-dense foods. In particular, certain foods build neurotransmitters, which can help boost our mood and energy. While there are more than 70 different neurotransmitters that help control appetite, memory, mental function, energy and sleep, there are three specific hormones — serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine — that are especially important in mood and energy regulation.

Here are 10 foods high in these healthy hormones and other nutrients to keep you energized:

Nature’s multi-vitamin, eggs are full of vitamins, minerals and protein. The yolks are a great source of choline, which is believed to improve memory and overall mental function.

With high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium, flax seeds can be easily added to a variety of meals to ensure a healthy brain and proper levels of neurotransmitters. Pro tip: Add some ground flax to oatmeal for a quick boost of these nutrients.

Packed with protein, zinc and B12, Greek yogurt is a great snack for providing nutrients to support nervous system health. It’s also a versatile ingredient that can help you increase your protein intake at any meal.

Legumes are a perfect combination of complex carbohydrates and protein to help increase absorption of tryptophan, while their high iron levels help enhance neurotransmitter activity, important components for stress and fatigue.

Sometimes referred to as “nooch,” this plant-based powerhouse is packed with energy-enhancing, stress-reducing B-vitamins — essential to make sure neurotransmitters are made in proper amounts in addition to converting tryptophan to serotonin.

A good source of neurotransmitter-building magnesium, which is also good for digestion and muscle soreness, pumpkin seeds contain a mixture of healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates, making them a perfect snack to balance your energy and mood throughout the day.

With an abundance of vitamin C and fiber, raspberries help fill the increased need for vitamin C when our body is stressed-out. The fiber keeps our gut working well to support digestion and overall health.

Full of phytochemicals, antioxidant-rich red cabbage may help the body deal with stress. These nutrients are also known to protect the brain from memory loss.

With high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, studies suggest eating salmon a couple times a week helps prevent depression and dementia. Specifically, consuming adequate levels of monounsaturated fats is essential in boosting serotonin levels and maintaining adequate brain health.

Eating animal protein along with a whole grain like quinoa can help increase the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan — an essential building block for increasing serotonin. Not only will it help boost your mood and improve sleep quality, but quinoa is also a great source of magnesium and B-vitamins, key actors in neurotransmitter creation.

About the Author

Alex McKee, MS, RD
Alex McKee, MS, RD

Alex is a Registered Dietitian based in Tacoma, Washington and founder of Nourishing Roots PNW. She offers online and in-person nutrition counseling services that encompass an all foods fit perspective and encourage people to work on creating a positive relationship with food, through intuitive and mindful eating, as a first step towards reaching nutrition and wellness goals. Adopting a food as medicine approach is the basis of Alex’s care in offering an integrative and functional nutrition care perspective. For more information about her and to get set-up with her one-on-one services, visit www.nourishingroots-pnw.com.


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