9 Mood-Boosting Food Pairings to Lift Your Spirits

Ivy Manning
by Ivy Manning
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9 Mood-Boosting Food Pairings to Lift Your Spirits

It can be tough to stay on a clean-eating track when your spirits drop. Your first instinct might to be to reach for sugary treats and trans-fat laden junk food to pull you out of the doldrums. The inevitable upshot of your moment of weakness will be a blood sugar spike, then a mood crash and brain fog that sticks around for much longer.

The smarter solution to the occasional bout of the moody Eeyores (the gloomy donkey from Winnie-the-Pooh books) is a more measured approach. When you eat the following nutrient-dense combinations, you’re getting what your body needs to build, protect and mend your brain. Feed thy brain and thy brain will reward you with sustained laser-focus, a more cheerful disposition and an improved ability to deal with stress. Eat well and be happy about it? That’s a prescription even Eeyore would love.

1. COCOA & OATMEAL

Sprinkle up to a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder into your morning oatmeal for an extra boost to your first meal of the day. Oats contain beta-glucan, which steadies blood sugar, so you’re less likely to get hangry mid-morning if you have oats for breakfast. Compounds in cocoa powder release endorphins and boost serotonin, the neurotransmitter that contributes to good moods when you’re under stress. With a breakfast like this, who needs a doughnut?

2. WHOLE-GRAIN TOAST, SCRAMBLED EGGS & WILD SALMON

Eggs are full of B12 and studies have shown deficiencies in the vitamin can lead to low energy. Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to work like antidepressants in the brain. Pile a creamy salmon-and-egg scramble on top of whole-grain toast, which offers a slow release of feel-good serotonin, sprinkle the top with chives and you’ve got an Instagram-worthy good mood on a plate. The “likes” on your feed are an added boost.

3. BANANAS & MILK

If you’re short on time time for breakfast and about to start your period, whirl up a smoothie with Greek yogurt, vitamin D-fortified milk, banana and honey and take it to go. The calcium in yogurt paired with the milk’s vitamin D helps fight off mood fluctuations related to the menstrual cycle. Bananas contains a good dose of B6, which studies show can help with depression and mood swings, especially if you’re suffering from PMS.   

4. ASPARAGUS, EGG & LEMON

The folate in asparagus partners with the B12 in the egg to create new brain cells and support serotonin regulation; the duo is being investigated as a natural way to help treat depression. Steam or grill asparagus and top with a finely chopped hard-boiled egg. Add a squeeze of lemon juice for a dose of vitamin C (linked to mood enhancement) and a drizzle of lemon-flavored olive oil, and then gaze at all the pretty promise of spring on your plate — another way to lift your mood.

5. TURKEY & BEANS

Ground turkey is a lean alternative to ground beef and it delivers the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine, both of which have been shown to chase away the blues. Turkey and beans are also good sources of iron, which can protect you against iron-deficiency anemia, a common blood cell disorder that can make you grumpy and apathetic … in a word Eeyore-ish. Try them together in this recipe for white bean chili with a hit of lime.

6. MUSSELS & CURRY

These briny bivalves aren’t just an easy-to-prepare seafood treat, they’re packed with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid linked to alleviating depression. Mussels are also a good source of selenium, a mineral associated with better moods and healthy thyroid function. Turmeric has been found to boost dopamine and serotonin production, and curry spices like cumin, cinnamon, fenugreek and chile peppers are all powerful antioxidants, which help our brains fight inflammation, a leading cause of dementia and memory loss. Try them together: Sauté a tablespoon of curry powder, or better yet, homemade curry paste, and whisk in a can of coconut milk. Add 2 pounds of mussels, cover, and cook until the mussels open, about 7 minutes. Not only will your tongue be tingly, so will your brain.


READ MORE > SCIENCE SAYS THESE 3 FOODS MAY HELP ATHLETES


7. MACKEREL & KALE

Mackerel is one of the “oily” fish doctors recommend we eat more of. That’s because they’re packed to the gills with omega-3s, the fatty acids shown to improve mood and mental function in several studies. A quick trip under the broiler until flaky and a squeeze of lemon is all the flavorful fillets need. Serve the fish alongside sautéed kale, a top source of vitamin K, shown to protect against crabby “senior moments.” Finish the dish with nitrate-free bacon crumbled over the kale, because if there’s one thing that’ll give you a positive outlook on life, it’s bacon.

8. SPINACH, ALMONDS & RASPBERRIES

Spinach is high in magnesium, a key mineral for energy. To get your full RDA of magnesium, toss 2 cups of baby spinach with 2 tablespoons of almonds, a little lemon juice and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Add some raspberries for a dose of anthocyanin; the flavonoids help you remember things like where you put your keys, a leading cause of irritability among adults.

9. AVOCADO, SEAWEED & BROWN RICE

Nori seaweed is an excellent plant-based source of B12 (see number 3), a brain-healthy nutrient that can be a challenge to get enough of if you happen to be a vegetarian. It’s also full of taurine, a brain stimulant that can help you feel relaxed and happy. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats, precursors to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps us learn and remember things. Be sure to order your brain-expanding roll with brown rice for a slower release of feel-good carbohydrates so you feel full … and mellow longer. Bring them all together in these Avocado Asparagus Rolls.

About the Author

Ivy Manning
Ivy Manning

Ivy is a cookbook author and food writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her latest book is Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match: 70 Recipes to Pair and Share.” Visit her at ivymanning.com.

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21 responses to “9 Mood-Boosting Food Pairings to Lift Your Spirits”

  1. Avatar TJ Hale says:

    These look fantastic! Thank you!

  2. Avatar Amanda says:

    Where are the recipes?

    • Avatar Ant says:

      I really despair for the future of the human race if you can’t work this out either

      • Avatar Alice says:

        Why are you being a Jerk? There are NO recipes given. Some you could guess at, but others you could not.

        • Avatar Alice says:

          This is the full description.

          Nori seaweed is an excellent plant-based source of B12 (see number 3), a brain-healthy nutrient that can be a challenge to get enough of if you happen to be a vegetarian. It’s also full of taurine, a brain stimulant that can help you feel relaxed and happy. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats, precursors to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps us learn and remember things. Be sure to order your brain-expanding roll with brown rice for a slower release of feel-good carbohydrates so you feel full … and mellow longer.

  3. Avatar Pam says:

    I agree that they look and sound delicious but where are the recipes!

  4. Avatar Rose Winger Chunik says:

    I guess we have to Goggle the recipes?!

    • Avatar Ant says:

      The recipes are in the explanations, do you not know how to cook?

      • I give up working at shopritte and at present I’m earning Seventy five $ – Ninety Seven $ per/hr. How? I am just working on the internet! My task did not make me happy hence I chose to take a chance on something new…after just 4 years it wasn’t simple to give up my day employment but now I couldn’t be more delighted.>>> OUOURL.COM/4rh9

      • Avatar Megan Metzmaker says:

        If you click on the blue highlighted portion, the receipes will pop up for you.

  5. Avatar Krissydjohnson says:

    Umm, lol, clearly I/we are not as ‘bright’ as you Ant but I can’t find the ‘recipies’ here either?? Lol

    • I resign working at shopritte and after that from now on I’m getting Seventy five $ – Ninety Seven $ per/hr. How? I am only working on the net! My work didn’t make me satisfied thus I chose to take the opportunity on something new…after 4 years it wasn’t easy to leave my day work however right now I couldn’t be more joyful.>>> OKNO.UK/r/279j3

  6. Avatar Alice Shockley says:

    I agree with everyone else – except Ant who apparently has a super computer that gives secret recipes no one else can see. You need to make sure to give recipes when you run these posts. Otherwise they’re fairly useless.

    • I resign working hard at shopritte and after that at this time I am getting $75-$97 each and every hour. How? I am just working on the internet! My job didn’t actually make me joyful as a consequence I chose to take a possibility on something new…after four years it wasn’t easy to give up my day job however right now I couldn’t be more joyful.>>> YUK.NU/zC

  7. Avatar Gauradas says:

    Good knowledge expressed here on the veggie dishes. Thank you Ivy. WIth all the knowledge that is now available, there is no need to consume the other recipes you have given with dead pigs, fish and chicken menstruation ( eggs ). I am going on 63 and have not eaten any corpses in 43 years. ANyone can do it. You have already given some great veggie recipes

  8. Avatar MissGirl64 says:

    Is the picture chili, avacado and sour cream? That is the one that looks good to me!!!

  9. Avatar fryboyski says:

    Bunch of non cookin fools up on here lol !!! It’s not hard to follow the ideas and make the shizz yourself. I like the ideas and will try them

  10. Avatar Liknikki says:

    These are foods that are good to eat together. One can look up recipes using the paired foods together under one recipe or recipes for each food but eat together as a meal. 🙂
    The article lets us know which foods are good to eat at the same sitting, pairing doesn’t necessarily mean recipes are presented as well.

  11. Avatar Kema says:

    Not trying to be funny, but nothing here really needs a recipe. The things that might be confusing, if you don’t already have a grasp of basics (such as the seaweed rolls) have links to the recipes.

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