No matter how hard we try, we’re not all sunshine and rainbows every day. Sometimes we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed for no good reason. In fact, that was me yesterday. I was tired, cranky and unfocused. My workout stunk, and I felt like I was moving through molasses all day at work. During one of the moments when I just couldn’t wrangle my concentration, I noticed a book on my desk that I had recently purchased but had not begun reading—The Happiness Diet by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, M.D. Hmmm. Intriguing. I enthusiastically flipped it open hoping to find a way out of my funk.
The book is full of a lot of science and research related to food sources and key nutrients. While I don’t agree with all of its conclusions, I LOVE the information it provides on how certain foods can improve mood and focus. I certainly needed this yesterday! So, if you are having a day like mine (or if you just want to avoid having one), give these good mood foods a try:
FOOD FOR MOOD: Five Get Happy Foods
Wild Salmon & Shrimp. Rich in omega-3s, a mood-boosting fatty acid shown to help alleviate depression and other mood disorders. Try topping your salads with salmon or shrimp rather than your typical chicken breast. Four ounces of each contains about 24 grams of protein.
Cherry Tomatoes & Watermelon. Both are rich in the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which helps to maintain mood by preventing the formation of compounds associated with depression. Tomatoes are also high in other mood enhancers like folate, magnesium, iron and B6. Try topping your salads with cherry tomatoes or adding them to your morning eggs. Accompany your post-workout whey protein with watermelon, a great post-workout, fast-digesting carbohydrate.
Chili Peppers. Mimic your post-workout high with chili peppers. Our bodies respond to the heat created by the nutrient capsaicin by releasing mood-enhancing endorphins much like you experience post-workout. Raw or cooked chili peppers add flavor to any meal. Try sautéing the peppers with ground turkey or beef. Add cumin and paprika for a Mexican flavor.
Beets. Beets are one of the best sources of the B vitamin folate, which is critical for mood, memory and reflexes. Beets also contain betaine, which helps our bodies create the natural antidepressant SAM-e. Avoid the sugary cans of beets and opt for fresh beets zested in a salad or roasted in the oven.
Garlic. Garlic is a great source of chromium, which helps with blood sugar regulation and the expression of serotonin and norepinephrine. Chromium has been used to treat depressed patients who struggle with low energy and carbohydrate cravings. Fresh garlic is so versatile. Try it sautéed in olive oil and added to proteins, veggies and starches.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Five Focus Foods
Eggs. Loaded in B vitamins, which are critical for cognition. Also, rich in magnesium, zinc and iron, which contribute to improved focus. Try starting your day with an egg omelet made with tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach.
Grass-Fed Beef. Beef increases focus and brain function thanks to conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which increases blood flow to the brain, and its concentration of iron, B12 and zinc. As an added bonus, CLA is considered a “body composition modulator,” decreasing body fat and increasing muscle mass. End your day with 3-4 ounces of beef for a meal that will keep you full overnight.
Brussels Sprouts. This crucifer is bursting with phytonutrients that support brain function and fight disease. Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, which helps to protect new brain cell formation. Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven with a tablespoon of walnut or grape seed oil and garlic will give the veggie a nutty flavor and minimize bitterness.
Grapefruit & Lemon. Contain flavonoids, which increase blood flow to brain, reduce inflammation, repair damaged neurons and promote new connections between neurons. Squeeze fresh lemon into beverages and on foods. Zest lemon rind on fish before cooking. Eat grapefruit sprinkled with sweetener as a healthy dessert or with your eggs at breakfast.
Berries. Contain phytonutrients that decrease inflammation and promote brain connections and growth. Add berries to your oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, Greek yogurt or protein shakes. Top your chicken with mashed berries mixed with a little balsamic vinegar. Or, enjoy berries as a healthy dessert topped with a tablespoon of whipped cream.
Push Toward Your Best
Yes, you can still Be YOUR BEST even if you are having a bad day. The key is to stay in the moment and continue to make rational decisions related to your fitness goals. If you are too tired to train, skip it. Go home, get some rest and pick up where you left off the next day. Just don’t replace your date with the gym with a peanut butter jar rendezvous. If you feel too grumpy to train, push through and just do something. You will be surprised how a few minutes of doing something as simple as walking for will alleviate your funk and get you back to feeling like your bright and shiny self.
Keep pushing— your best is waiting.