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Serve Up These 6 Holiday Foods To Boost Moods

Thanks to being nutrient and vitamin-dense, they are the ultimate happy foods this festive season…

Professionals involved in the flourishing field of nutritional psychiatry are discovering there are many consequences and correlations between what we eat and how we feel, as well as other important findings. And with so many feeling it's hard to get into the holiday spirit this year, especially those who can’t be close to their nearest and dearest, it’s great to know there are certain foods associated with the season that can help our mental health. 

Food expert and author Christine DeLozier has always been quite obsessed with diet, nutrition and natural health. Her philosophy is rooted in an evidence-based understanding of the physiological effect of food on the body, while honouring the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine. The certified Holistic Nutritional Counsellor reveals six mood-boosting festive favourites.

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Candy cane lovers will be pleased to know peppermint can help with memory and in relieving stress. The study-proven refreshing sweet treat is perfect for coping with the super-busy whirlwind nature of the holiday season.

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Apples are chock-full of a type of antioxidant called flavonoids, which according to research have the ability to improve mood within just two hours of eating them. In one study, flavonoids improved cognitive function, with the effects lasting up to six hours post-consumption. Apples are packed with other feel-good substances too, such as B vitamins, so now you have the perfect excuse to bake a delicious apple pie. For those who prefer a lower-fat option, you can’t go wrong with some warming homemade applesauce, sprinkled with another food that can help brighten up your day, cinnamon.

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Load up on that cranberry sauce with the turkey dinner as cranberries are jam-packed with flavonoids and vitamin C. Since we are one of the few species unable to create the important vitamin, which is a major player in dopamine metabolism in the body, it is essential to make sure we are consuming enough. It is well established that people with mood and psychiatric disorders are quite often deficient in vitamin C. Numerous studies have found it rapidly improves mood. In fact, the higher our vitamin C levels are, the less confusion, anger and depression we have, according to one piece of research. Other studies have effectively used vitamin C to complement other interventions in the treatment of depression. For some great alternative ways to incorporate cranberries into your diet, you can boil some fresh ones with honey, grated nutmeg and cinnamon, or you can add some mandarin orange slices to increase the mood-boosting ability.

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Yams are loaded with vitamins and minerals including potassium, which helps maintain optimal cognitive function. Low potassium intake is associated with greater risk of mood disturbances and depression. For example, one study showed that a high potassium diet improved tension and symptoms of depression. Those who like to leave the skin on will be thrilled to know it contains a whopping 40 percent of a yam’s minerals. One great baked yam recipe idea is to scoop out the flesh, mix it with a drizzle of maple syrup, some aromatic spices such as cardamom and cloves and top with toasted pecans.

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Pumpkin/Pumpkin Seeds:

Pumpkin is rich in mood-boosting minerals, such as potassium, vitamin A and B vitamins. Potassium is considered a mental-health food because of its powerful effect on mood, and low potassium levels are related to depression and mood disturbances. One study measured the effect of a high potassium, low sodium diet and found significant improvements to mood. Plus, pumpkin seeds contain abundant tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin, a chemical that helps make us feel good that’s produced by our bodies. In research, dietary tryptophan improved the mood of participants over the course of a four-day, high-tryptophan diet, with the subjects experiencing less anxiety and depressive symptoms. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of zinc, which can give an immediate boost to mood, having an antidepressant effect. While everyone loves pumpkin pie, simple baked pumpkin with a bit of salt and pepper is also delicious. Just don’t forget to save the pumpkin seeds for roasting!

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Potatoes are teeming with vitamins and minerals including potassium, which helps maintain optimal cognitive function and a positive mood, helping put it in the mental-health food category. Scientific research has found that those who maintain a high potassium, low sodium diet are less anxious, depressed, confused and angry and have more energy and vigour. Potatoes are also a great source of vitamin C, which we’ve already touched on.

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