Getting Divorced? What to Eat to Beat the Blues and Boost Your Mood

Mood Boosting Foods

Let’s face it: If you’re contemplating divorce or going through divorce, it’s going to affect your mood. You may be irritable, stressed, emotional, angry, and, on some level, depressed. But what you eat may be able to help the situation — research has shown that there is a relationship between the food you eat and your mood. And no, I’m not talking about Ben & Jerry’s, chocolate chip cookies or a pile of French fries. While these choices may offer a quick source of comfort, they lead to a fleeting boost of energy, then a crash in blood sugar and unwanted pounds. I’m talking about food that actually makes you feel good because of the specific nutrients it contains or the steady energy it gives you; foods that help you stay focused and balanced, so that you can handle anything that comes your way.

In terms of what foods you should be eating to improve your mood and alleviate depression and stress while you’re going through divorce, it comes down to neurotransmitters, nutrients and macronutrients. Let’s break that down.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in your brain that communicate information throughout your brain and body. Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are all neurotransmitters that are thought to play a role in helping to regulate your mood:

  • Serotonin, which helps boost your mood, is made from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and other meats.
  • Dopamine is one of the most powerful stimulating neurotransmitters, and it is converted from the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in almonds, avocados, dairy products, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
  • Norepinephrine is another stimulating neurotransmitter, which is also converted from tyrosine.

Here are some important nutrients that may affect your mood:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids help with alleviating depression and other mood disorders. Grass-fed beef, salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, flax seeds, nuts and dark green leafy vegetables are all rich in omega-3s.
  • Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps protect your brain and fights inflammation, which may cause depression. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene.
  • Many other antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables have also been associated with decreasing depression. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, and they’ve been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. Dark chocolate (yay!) is rich in two types of antioxidants called polyphenols and flavonols.
  • Folate, which is a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and dark green vegetables like spinach, affects mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Asparagus is also a good source.
  • Magnesium is a mineral that may help lower your stress level. Spinach is also high in magnesium.
  • Zinc is another mineral that has been shown to have a positive effect on depression and stress and is found in meat, poultry, oysters and nuts.

Picking the right macronutrients is also important:

  • Protein helps moderate your blood sugar, meaning you don’t experience fluctuations in your energy levels or uncontrollable hunger. Focus on lean meats (steak, poultry and seafood), eggs, tofu, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits and whole grains have fiber that help keep your blood sugar steady. The processed carbohydrates found in sugar, desserts, fried foods and refined grains could make you irritable and cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.
  • Fat, as in monounsaturated, polyunsaturated (including those depression-busting omega-3s) and even saturated fats are essential to healthy brain function. In addition to the foods rich in omega-3s, olive oil, canola and coconut oil, avocados and nuts and seeds are all good sources of these fats. Avoid trans fats, which are found in processed and fried food.

And don’t forget — eating small, frequent meals can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and give you a constant source of energy while keeping your appetite in check so you don’t succumb to your cravings for the not-so-comforting comfort foods.

With all that being said, don’t beat yourself up if you have a face to face run-in with a couple pieces of pizza or one too many cookies. Enjoy the moment, go for a walk or do something active (also shown to beat depression and elevate mood) and make sure your next meal is full of good-mood foods. Many more tips are available to you throughout the physical sections of Untangle The Knot.

Learn more about how Untangle The Knot can support you on your journey through divorce.

Gretchen Ferraro, UTK Editor and Wellness Expert

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