Avoiding the Quarantine 15: Mood-Boosting Foods That Also Stave Off the Muffin Tops
We all have different ways of coping with coronavirus quarantine, but one thing seems to unite us: we’re all eating more than we usually would. Being in such close proximity to the kitchen (with nowhere else to go) means we snack incessantly all day long. Grazing isn’t bad, per se, but when we’re loading up on comfort foods laden with sugar, fat, and salt, it should come as no surprise that we’re all gaining the “quarantine 15” in record time.
What’s even worse than weight gain are the mood swings that follow our gorge fests; one minute we’re manic, the next lethargic. This food free-for-all isn’t doing us any favors, which is why we’ve dug deep into research on the best mood-boosting foods that also stave off the dreaded muffin top. The next time you put in a grocery delivery order (or dare to venture to the store yourself), do your body, mind, and spirit a solid and just say no to junk food — and yes to these healthy eats instead.
Cover Photo: Jevtic (Getty Images)
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There really is no better way to start your day than with eggs. The high-protein orbs will keep you fuller longer while also supplying a hefty dose of choline, a natural mood enhancer. Those yolks also contain anxiety-fighting compounds like amino acids, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc. Eggcellent attributes, if we do say so ourselves.
Weird but true: your gut is your emotional warehouse. It's the place where neurotransmitters responsible for your mood are produced. Probiotics in any form (sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.) will help keep your gut happy, but yogurt is one of the most easily sourced (and easiest to stomach) of the bunch. Choose a brand with vitamin D for an additional dose of happy hormones.
Fruits are crucial to keeping depression at bay, likely because of their antioxidant properties. No fruit packs more of a punch than berries, which help stave off oxidative stress. The pretty color of berries isn't just an aesthetic bonus, either; they owe their hues to anthocyanins, which are associated with lower depression risk.
Aside from being cheap and portable, bananas have many health qualities that make them mood-boosting all stars. They are high in fiber, which keeps your gut healthy -- and a healthy gut is key to staving off sadness. Bananas are also packed with vitamin B6, which supports feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Whole grains help keep blood sugar levels stable by slowing your body's digestion of carbs. What that means for your mood is no roller coaster-style emotional crashes after eating. Oats also contain iron, which wards off low energy and mood disorders, as well as fiber, which keeps your gut happy.
This family of foods that includes beans, peas, and lentils is a boon for good moods. This plant-based protein is high in fiber and bursting with B vitamins, which help regulate mood. Legumes also boast other joy-inducing vitamins like iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Any kind of vegetable will do, really, but a salad is a good way to get a variety of veg (and therefore cheerful vitamins) in one bowl for minimal calories. Opt for dark, leafy greens like spinach, which have a hearty amount of vitamin B folate, a crucial component in warding off depression.
Don't be fooled by the "fatty fish" category that salmon falls under; this kind of fat is good for you and your mood. Those pinkish planks contain two kinds of omega-3s: DHA and EPA, which are correlated with lower levels of depression in people who eat salmon a few times a week.
If you thought healthy snacks were boring, think again. Nuts are not only tasty, they're uplifting, too. In one study, a moderate consumption of nuts was linked to a 23 percent lower risk of depression. This is likely thanks to the amino acid tryptophan, which produces serotonin. Some nuts, like Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts give you an extra serving of euphoria due to their selenium and zinc content. Just don't go too nuts; because nuts are calorically dense, chow down on no more than one small fistful a day.
Have a sweet tooth? You'll be glad to hear there's no need to swear off sugar completely. You just need to indulge more wisely. Dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids than other kinds of chocolate, and that means more blood flow to your brain, hence the higher happiness factor. It's also rich with feel-good chemical compounds including caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine (which is surprisingly similar to cannabinoids). No wonder you can't stop after one square! (But for your waistline's sake, limit your consumption to 2 ounces per day.)
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