Healthier diet may boost your mood, research says

This time of year can be tough for many who are struggling with depression, anxiety or just feeling blue.

But new research reveals that certain foods might have a positive impact on your mood.

In fact, some experts say just making a few simple changes in your diet may help. And it's not just what you eat; it's important to know which foods to avoid as well.

In a new paper, researchers analyzed the results of 41 studies on depression and food. They found eating a Mediterranean diet was linked to a 33 percent lower risk of depression.

The Mediterranean diet includes foods like veggies, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and healthy oils which contain mono-saturated and omega-three fats.

"Especially the omega-three fatty acids," said Dr. Charles Conway, a researcher with Washington University in Saint Louis. "Those are known to have pretty clear effects with depression."

But what you don't eat may be equally important, when it comes to your mood.

Researchers found a diet high in processed foods, sugar and saturated fats upped the risk of depression.

They suggest steering clear of products with ingredients like flour, hydrogenated oil, sugar, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. Some foods that have been shown to boost your mood: avocados, berries, tomatoes, leafy greens like kale and spinach, walnuts, seeds and beans.

And don't forget to throw in some physical activity. Moderate exercise has also been shown to be a mood booster.

"Pushing yourself to exercise regularly probably helps with some degree of mood improvement," Conway adds.

Some researchers theorize that food affects your mood because it changes your gut bacteria. If you continually consume processed or "inflammatory foods," some believe you're creating chronic inflammation in the body that can lead to depression.

Finally, here's a bit of good news: chocolate just may make you happy.

A study done in Switzerland at the Nestle Research Center found that eating about 1 1/2 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Just make sure to keep tabs on your chocolate intake.
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