If the prolonged COVID lockdown proved anything, it was that when people are stressed or feeling down, they often turn to food for comfort. Even as things gradually return to normal, two groups of people will be more subject than average to feelings of stress and depression – older adults and their caregivers.
But unlike high calorie comfort treats, there are foods that can improve not only your outlook, but also your health by improving overall brain health and specific kinds of mood disorders:
According to a number of studies, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce depression. Unfortunately, your body can’t produce them. But salmon and albacore tunas’ bodies can. Eating a 3½-ounce serving of salmon, for example, gives you almost a ten-day supply.
Dark Chocolate is filled with feel-good compounds, including caffeine, theobromine, flavinoids, and cannabinoid-like N-acylethonamine. What’s more, chocolate’s taste, texture, and smell can also put you in a good mood. Because milk chocolate, in particular, is also filled with sugar, better stick with dark chocolate, which is higher in flavonoids. And keep it to one or two small squares at a time.
Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha (but not beer and wine), create probiotics, which can reduce depression by boosting those feel-good serotonin levels.
The B vitamins that beans and lentils are rich in also improve mood by raising levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps your body produce good-mood neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Oats, as in oatmeal, muesli, and granola, are rich in fiber. One study showed that people who ate 1½ to 6 grams of fiber at breakfast reported better mood and energy levels.
While the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can lower depression rates, the anthrocyanins that give berries a purple-blue color lowered risk of depression by 35%.
A 10-year study involving 15,980 people showed that the amino acid called tryptophan in nuts – specifically, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts – and pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds lowered risk of depression by 23%.
Coffee – even decaf – helps your body release mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine.
Another way to relieve the stresses of aging or caregiving is with a bit of outside help exactly when and where it’s needed most. Our thorough three-part holistic needs assessment goes beyond superficial physical health to also look at mental health, functional and social abilities, cognitive health, and even a safety evaluation, to determine and address what our clients and their families personally need as individuals. Contacting us can make you feel less stressed and happier – without having to eat beans, kefir or sauerkraut.