Think of your body as a luxury car and the food you eat as your fuel. Just as the type of fuel affects the performance of a car, the foods you eat can affect your mood, energy levels and even how well you function at work or school. "The way we feel is certainly influenced by what we eat," says registered dietitian Kristy Hogger. "Our food choices can help us feel better or worse. As well, an overall healthy and balanced diet is key to positively influencing energy levels and mood over the long term."
If you're feeling sluggish, try upping the energy-boosting foods in your diet. We like these tasty options.
Just Add Nuts
Nuts are packed with flavour: We're big fans of the sweet, buttery taste of hazelnuts and the satisfying crunch of whole almonds. Plus, nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts may also enhance mood. "One study found that people who consumed ¼ cup (60 mL) of mixed nuts per day had higher levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood, compared to those who avoided nuts," Hogger says.
Nuts make a great portable snack—perfect for stashing in your purse or backpack for munching on the go. And we love the crunchy texture they add to entrées and desserts. Try our Spiced Apple Salad With Granola, which has walnuts, or bake our easy Pumpkin, Cranberry & Pecan Loaf. We also recommend Cheese & Broccoli Topped Chicken and Apple-Raspberry Crisp, which both feature almonds, and Harvest Vegetable & Hazelnut Crumble. Enjoy them in moderation, though: Nuts are high in fat.
Get Hooked on Fish
Fresh, flaky and delicate fish is a tasty and affordable solution, whether for weeknight or special-occasion dinners. Added bonus: Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in some kinds of fish, may help improve mood and symptoms of depression. Boost your intake by adding salmon, mackerel and sardines to your diet. (Other sources of omega-3s include soybean and canola oils, flaxseed, walnuts and some green vegetables, such as spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts.)
We like cooking with fish because it's a versatile protein that cooks quickly. Try zesty Orange Glazed Salmon or Asian Grilled Salmon Salad for an easy weeknight dinner—each one takes just 20 minutes to prepare. And dress up your favourite fish dish with creamy Lemon Tarragon Aioli.
Crisp romaine adds texture to sandwiches, and tender spinach boosts the flavour of your everyday salad.
But greens don't just taste great – they may help boost energy, too. Some research suggests there's a link between depression and low levels of folate (a B vitamin also known as folic acid). Get more of this nutrient by eating greens such as spinach, broccoli and romaine lettuce. (Other folate-rich foods include oranges, lentils, nuts and sunflower seeds.)
Get your greens with Chopped Broccolini & Spinach Salad or Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli. Our Egg and Spinach Roll and Ultimate Grilled Veggie Sandwich with spinach are great for brunches and lunches, and B.L.T. Nachos with romaine lettuce make a delicious snack.