Mental Health — we all have it, and now we should strive to be more open and vulnerable about it. 

TheraPieces* is a Slice of Culture monthly column by Mendez, a graduate student pursuing her Master of Social Work in clinical/medical social work.

TheraPieces will explore what mental health is, how to cope with it, ways on improving life with a mental illness, destigmatizing the topic of mental health and how to improve the wellness of it — without any judgments.

Ever felt down and wanted a quick boost of serotonin while also craving a piece of food? Yup, me too.

You may or may not know how outside forces can influence our mental health and moods a lot so we want to give ourselves the right amounts of care and love that we need in any way possible.

With the love month around, we want to make sure we love and take care of ourselves entirely; along with our mind and body by treating it well with healthy, not too sugary foods that will also enhance your mood.

A quick and fun way to do that is eating foods that can also boost up your mood!

With Valentine’s Day coming around, all that dark chocolate will definitely make a special someone (or yourself) full of love and light. (Yes dark chocolate is good too!)

Not all of the following foods are healthy enough to eat in big amounts of chunks but keep a balance of it and watch and feel your change of frame of mind a lot better.

Here are a few tasty foods that I’ve chosen that can enhance your mood and make you love yourself even more. The list I had chosen from is also from this article if you would like to look further into some other foods and explanations:

Dark chocolate:

According to an article on healthline, dark chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting compounds by releasing a cascade of feel good compounds such as caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine — which has been linked to improving your mood. Like I said, Valentine’s Day is coming so if you wanna make the holiday for someone special or for yourself, go and grab some at the nearest store. You have permission to indulge as much as you want for this holiday.

Kiwis: 

According to research from the University of Otago, Chrischurch, they suggest that eating two kiwis or at least half a kiwi a day can enhance a person’s overall happiness in mood as well as energy. It can even help ward off depression and elevate fatigue! It’s rich in vitamin C is a strong source that can help boost energy immensely. Continue reading into this article to find out more ways Kiwis are beneficial to your diet.

Tomatoes:

Tomatoes include a great source of lycopene. According to the Today article, lycopene is a fat-soluble phytonutrient that helps protect vital brain fat, and a nutrient that actually stops the buildup of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression. If you don’t have a love for salad, now’s your chance to do so and have it with some added fresh sliced tomatoes. Make sure not to replace it with ketchup! It just won’t work the same (sorry burgers).

Bananas

Bananas with their yellow colored skin and uncoincidentally shaped like a smiley face, you can’t doubt that it doesn’t have any benefits to add into your life. Healthline writes that, “they’re high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.” As we already know, serotonin is the happy neurotransmitter that we crave. Bananas are also a great snack to take along with you or to eat it as a quick breakfast fueler. Read more about how beneficial bananas are to your mood and energy.

Berries

Another sweet and colorful fruit that can help boost your mood instantly. It’s even a fun way to mix all different types of berries with the different colors each one has, including blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Healthline writes to us that “berries pack a wide range of antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which play a key role in combating oxidative stress — an imbalance of harmful compounds in your body.” They haven’t really cleared on this yet, but a rich diet in antioxidants can also help with depression and mood disorders by managing inflammation within your body. There’s a lot of benefits to eating fruits with antioxidants so I wouldn’t be surprised if something like this would be true. 

Coffee

Coffee makes the world go ‘round. You see it everywhere, coffee shops, cafes, starbucks and dunkin donuts drinks with cute little designs on the cup. I think everyone can agree that coffee is incredibly popular, as it is also lightweight so it’s easy to take it on the go. Whether you like it cold or hot, light or dark, there’s a type of coffee for everyone. Coffee’s natural occurring compound, adenosine, can improve alertness and attention. It also increases the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Even decaf coffee can have the same effect of this! You can’t really go wrong with having some caffeine in your life but for those who prefer it, decaf is also an option to give you that happy energy boost.

Take a look at some of the other foods and snacks that are mentioned in the articles that you may be curious about trying and at how it can enhance your mood, better your diet, and give you the boost of energy you need to take on the day!

If there’s any way to get to a person’s heart, it’s definitely through their stomach so be creative and spread good mood with these smart and mental healthy food.

<3 Sending love!

If you want a specific topic related to mental health covered, Daniella Mendez may be reached at dm1146@scarletmail.rutgers.edu.

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