Dana James featured in Elle.com
There are many ways to get lifted—mood-wise—but have you ever considered getting high on snacks? Certain nutrients in foods can have a major impact on brain chemistry, and the choosing the right ones can boost your mood. We consulted nutritionist Dana James, MS, CNS, CDN, to craft a 24-hour meal plan composed of foods that might make you smile from the inside out.
RISE AND SHINE
Almond Milk Matcha Cortado: “Let’s be honest—caffeine makes you happy,” James says. “Matcha is superior to coffee. It has more antioxidants than coffee and contains L-theanine, which helps keep the mind Zen-like.” Mix a teaspoon of matcha with 1/4 cup hot water, and top with almond milk.
Chia Pudding with Fresh Figs: “This breakfast is packed with brain nutrients,” James says. “The chia seeds are rich in omega-3s, which support the integrity of the neurons so that the brain can listen effectively to the happy neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine.” Meanwhile, figs are high in mood-boosting magnesium. Mix 1/4 cup chia seeds with 1 cup coconut milk, along with the sweetener of your choice, to taste. Let soak for several minutes and mix in dried apricots and fresh figs.
Salmon and Avocado Salad with Pumpkin Seeds: Throw a bunch of mood-boosting foods in a bowl, and boom—lunch. “The ingredients in this salad provide an abundance of phytonutrients, omega-3s, zinc, magnesium, B-vitamins, and amino acids, all of which support the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine for a happy afternoon,” James says. In a bowl, mix Bibb lettuce with 1/2 sliced avocado, cooked wild salmon, sprouts, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds. Toss in some lemon vinaigrette and serve.
Green Juice: “Packed with chlorophyll and potassium, this juice helps to alkalize and vitalize the body so you avoid that 3 P.M. afternoon slump, which inevitably has you reaching for office candy and more caffeine,” James says.
ZESTY BRAIN BOOST
Coconut Yogurt with Lemon Zest: Swap dairy for coconut yogurt. “Dairy is one of the most common food sensitivities, which can lead to chronic inflammation and disrupt brain chemistry,” James says. “The saturated fat in the coconut helps to improve brain cell integrity.” The hint of lemon also provides an invigorating boost.
THE HEMP HIGH
Hemp Seed-Encrusted Grouper With Thyme and Rosemary Over Micro Greens: Thanks to a very high content of omega-3 fatty acids, any kind of fish is a great option to lift your mood. The hemp seeds in this super simple recipe are chock full of the nutrient as well.
Roasted Blue Potatoes and Carrots: Potatoes help to activate serotonin (your mood-regulating hormone) in the brain, and the additional pigment in blue or purple potatoes helps protect neurons from damage, James says. Carrots are high in carotenoids, which are linked to a better mood.
Muddled Cherries and Raspberries: “Tart cherries help to activate melatonin for a deeper night’s sleep, so you wake up refreshed the next morning,” James says. “Raspberries give an extra hint of sweetness without adding sugar, which can send your mood back down again.”