We’ve all been there…you spend a weekend eating junk food and stuffing yourself, and then you have something like a junk food hangover and feel like total crap.

Then you tell yourself, I’m going to eat healthy, and workout more! And maybe you keep it up for a week or so, but then you succumb to the lure of the junk, and the vicious cycle resumes.

What foods and dietary habits should we focus on to help get out of a rut, and feel as awesome as we can?

Let’s discuss shall we?

1. Vitamin B

vitamin B foods

Vitamin B has been a hot topic in nutrition and energy, and because of this recent popularity, many energy drinks come packed with vitamin B. I would not, however, advocate chugging these for your fill.

Some important functions of B vitamins include:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – Improving reaction time
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Reducing headaches
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – Reducing anxiety, diabetes symptoms, preventing Alzheimer’s, and reducing arterial plaque
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – Reducing acne
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Reducing the risk of colon cancer
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) – Regulating mood
  • Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalmin) – Reducing memory loss and improving cognition

Now, it’s not like mega-dosing on B vitamins will cause all of these things. But, if you’re deficient in B vitamins, it could contribute to a number of problems.

So it is clear that B vitamins play an important role in both our mood and our health. So what foods should we look to for natural sources of these key vitamins?

Here’s a list:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – Pork, ham, leafy green vegetables, and fortified whole-grains
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – Milk, Greek yogurt, asparagus, and dark leafy greens
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – Chicken, turkey, fish, and fortified whole-grains
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – Liver, eggs, yogurt, and avocado
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Poultry, seafood, bananas, and potatoes
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) – Leafy greens and fortified whole grain products
  • Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalmin) – Soy products, shellfish, fish, and beef

It’s clear that B vitamins play various roles in both health and mood regulation. It’s also clear that a balanced diet with a good mix of proteins, whole-grains, and leafy vegetables will provide you with all the benefits of having an adequate amount of B vitamins in your system.

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

anxious woman

A study posted in the Journal of Brain Behavior and Immunity analyzed whether omega-3 supplementation would decrease the production of cytokines – chemical switches that may play a role in depression. The study team took 68 medical students and gave them either placebo capsules or omega-3 supplements. Those receiving the omega-3 supplements showed a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms. Omega-3 in your diet is extremely important despite its ability to enhance mood, but this a huge plus.

3. Dark Chocolate

block dark chocolate

What post about food and mood would be complete without a mention of chocolate?

Now is this a myth thrown at us by chocolate lovers as an excuse to eat more chocolate?

Actually no, there is science backing this ladies and gentlemen!

There isn’t much evidence that chocolate actually changes behavior, but it does influence brain activity associated with mood and pleasure.

Not exactly firm evidence that it boosts mood, but it’s likely. Especially when you consider that chocolate also contains the next ingredient on our list.

4. Caffeine

coffee vs green tea cups

A cup of Joe in the morning is pretty common. In fact, 50% of the population, or 150 million Americans drink coffee. And we know why too. Coffee wakes us up with a caffeine induced buzz.

But researchers like Dr. Norman B. Schmidt, PhD, are becoming increasingly concerned about caffeine’s role in panic and anxiety disorder. “If you tend to be a high-strung, anxious person”, says Schmidt, “using a lot of caffeine can be risky”.

It’s possible that excessive caffeine can trigger things like rapid heartbeat, restlessness, nervousness, agitation, and insomnia. All of these can also trigger anxiety and panic attacks.

Overall, however, caffeine improves concentration and reduces fatigue.

5. Alcohol

woman drinking red wine glass

Alcohol, in small amounts, can help boost mood and feelings of well-being.

Although alcohol seems like a stimulant, it is actually a depressant and works by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. So while alcohol is in your system, you’re feeling pretty great, usually. But once it wears off, you generally feel worse.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, about 7 percent of Americans have this specific alcohol induced anxiety.

As with all substances, moderation is key. But if you are the type that is sensitive to alcohol, or have a type A personality prone to anxiety. I’d consider seriously limiting your intake.

It’s About Balance (and some Exercise)

woman in red jogging

There are many links to what we consume and how it makes us feel. We’ve gone over things to eat more of, and things to avoid. The real key as with most health endeavors is to seek a lifestyle change that promotes health and balance.

Eating high quality foods, meats, fish, and taking in enough whole-grains and leafy greens will take you far in feeling better. Remember to moderate sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.

Most importantly, supplement your improved diet with a balanced training regimen. Exercise can vastly improve your mood through the release of endorphins.

What’s your take on how food affects food? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!