Who doesn’t like feeling optimistic, bright and cheery, and ready to take on the day? Well you don’t need a sugary bagel or a buttered biscuit in the morning to make you feel fabulous, friends! While you’re at it, leave out the sausage muffin and the hamburger at lunch too. Did you know plants contain certain natural chemicals known as phytonutrients that improve your brain health, all in a relatively short amount of time? Research has actually shown that directly after eating fruits and vegetables, people just feel better all the way around. Plants have the most unique way of giving us that well-taken care of feeling we all like to feel.
Some foods outrank others in their specific nutrient profiles that improve your mood and give you that sense of optimism and overall happiness you’re looking to enjoy. Eat up more of these each day and you’ll feel all bright and shiny in no time!
Apples are full of the antioxidant known as quercetin, which is a powerful mind-boosting antioxidant your body loves! Quercetin helps to fuel neurotransmitters in the brain and also reduces inflammation, which can further improve mood. Apples also offer a good dose of Vitamin C, which has been linked to a reduction in stress and anxiety. They’re also full of pectin, a fiber that keeps you full so your insulin levels stay more stable, which prevents erratic moods due to low blood sugar. While whole apples are best, you can also use apples in your recipes such as breakfast dishes like muffins, or even in dessert! Try these Apple Butter Cookies or grain-Free Cinnamon Apple ‘Toast’.
Oranges are rich in B vitamins that boost brain health, specifically Vitamin B6 and folate (Vitamin B9). They’re also hydrating, which keeps your fluids balanced and prevents dehydration. Dehydration is one of the most overlooked causes of a foul mood, hunger, and even headaches. Oranges also offer a large Vitamin C boost, and are low on the glycemic index. Try Raw Massaged Kale Salad with Fresh Figs and Oranges for an energizing, mood-boosting lunch!
Chickpeas are rich in Vitamin B6, protein, and magnesium. Vitamin B6 helps to combat low energy and anxiety, and protein helps fuel neurotransmitter function in the brain that helps produce serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin and dopamine are two natural hormones your body needs to feel happy and at is best. Magnesium is a crucial mineral for a heathy nervous system and is found abundantly in plants, with chickpeas being one of the highest sources. Try these Dill Pickle Roasted Chickpea Gyros, this Chickpea Salad Stuffed Avocado, or this Buffalo Chickpea Salad for lunch
Oats are a phenomenal grain and one of the best sources of carbs you can eat. They’re absolutely packed with B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and they even contain protein. Oats have been found to be one of the best foods to reduce anxiety, prevent depression, and maintain a healthy nervous system. Oatmeal can be enjoyed almost any way you can think of. Cooked, soaked overnight, mixed into a bread or cookies, or even added to a smoothie. If you’re sensitive to gluten, be sure to buy certified gluten-free sources to safe. Try them savory-style, with creative add-ins, and learn how to make them creamy in clever ways that boost their nutrition even further. Or, try them for dinner with these Veggie Cutlets With Oats and Flax.
Chocolate (cacao) is one of the richest sources of magnesium on the planet! Magnesium helps to calm anxiety and improve mood, which is one reason chocolate is craved during times of stress. Though high in fats, pure chocolate is cholesterol-free. Chocolate is also rich in iron, fiber, and even contains a little protein. Be sure to use raw cacao, plain cocoa, or 100% baking chocolate in place of sugary sources of chocolate (which often contain milk and cane sugar). Try this Caribbean Chocolate Coconut Run and Cacao Smoothie for breakfast!
Hemp seeds contain 45 percent of your daily magnesium needs in just 3 tablespoons, along with 13 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber. They’re also a rich source of iron, Vitamin B6, and potassium. Hemp seeds do not contain the drug-like chemical known as THC found in marijuana, so do not worry about consuming hemp seeds- they’re fantastic for you! Buy organic, non-GMO sources so you know you’re getting the highest quality hemp possible. Hemp protein is another easy way to boost your mood and can easily be added to a smoothie like this Mango and Hemp Seed Smoothie or used in other creative ways of your choosing, like the sauce in these Mushroom Gyros With Hemp Tzatziki.
Coconut’s fats are possibly the best you can give your brain. Why? They’re rich in two ingredients that have been directly linked to happiness, clarity, and lower anxiety. What are these fabulous ingredients? Lauric acid and medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT’s). Lauric acid helps detoxify the body and boosts brain health, along with cleanse the liver. When your liver is overwhelmed, your body feels sluggish, tired, and your mood takes a nosedive. Eating a plant-strong diet, rich in healthy fats from foods like coconut is one of the best ways to boost liver health. The MCT’s in coconut also improve brain function, have been used to treat neurological disorders like epilepsy, and are one of the best sources of fats for your liver since they are not stored, but used for energy and cleansing. Buy raw, organic, extra virgin coconut oil as the best option, and raw, organic coconut flour and butter as well. You can also use organic, unsweetened coconut shreds, which all offer the benefits of this magical food. Try these Raw Coconut and Blood Orange Pops for a fresh and fruity way to get more coconut!
Asparagus is a powerhouse of nutrients including Vitamin B6, Folate (Vitamin B9), protein, and potassium. It’s an incredible mood-boosting food and is easy to enjoy in a variety of recipes. Asparagus is also an easy way to combat bloat and is easier to digest than some other veggies like broccoli.
Kale is one of the best sources of magnesium you can consume, and one of nature’s best anti-depression foods. It’s also rich in iron, chlorophyll, B vitamins, and Vitamins A and C. Eating nutrient-dense foods has been directly linked to improved mood health, depression relief, and lower amounts of anxiety. Kale and other bitter greens also offer a grounding effect to the body, which helps relieve tension and inability to rest from stress quickly. Try these Amazing Indian Onion and Kale Fritters as a yummy way to enjoy the healthy green, or for something lighter, go with Kale and Golden Beet Salad.
Cashews are incredible sources of healthy fats, iron, protein, and Vitamin B6. In fact, cashews are one of the best “must-have” foods for vegans, because they offer so much nutrition in a small serving. You can enjoy them raw or in cashew butter. Cashew cream is also easy to make and can be used to replace dairy-based creams in your recipes, like a creamy, dreamy, bowl of oatmeal!
Berries are packed with antioxidants tied to better brain health. They’re also low on the glycemic index so they won’t spike your blood sugar. Also packed with water and fiber, they can help keep your digestive system regular, which will also improve your mood and sense of well-being. Add them to anything you like and aim for a cup a day however you can. How about starting with breakfast in a delicious, chocolate, chia-filled smoothie?
Other awesome foods for your mood include:
- Romaine Lettuce
- Sweet Potatoes
- Black Beans
- Green Beans
As you can see, plant-based foods give your brain (and body) just what it needs to fill it’s best. Oh, and don’t worry, regular, healthy coffee’s totally plant-based and vegan so feel free to indulge if you must!
What’s your favorite vegan mood-boosting food?
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Lead image source: Caribbean Chocolate Coconut Run and Cacao Smoothie
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