You’ve likely heard of the Food-Mood Connection —  the idea that the types of food we eat can greatly impact our overall mood. I make my job as a Health and Wellness Coach Virginia Beach very seriously. We’ve all experienced the adverse effects of this; the sugar-lows that inevitably follow the sugar-highs or that time we said something we didn’t mean when we were #hangry. But food can also be extremely beneficial in boosting our mood, and now there’s a ton of research that suggests that improving our eating habits can even lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Here are 8 tips for how to use food to enhance your mood:

1. Eat Breakfast: When you skip out on breakfast, you’re left with less motivation and energy. This could lead to poor nutrition/lifestyle choices throughout the day (like skipping your workout or eating fast food) which will also negatively impact your mood. Eating breakfast helps start your day the right way.

2. Protein, Protein, Protein: Many women falsely believe that protein is going to cause them to “bulk up” and therefore don’t get enough of it. But we NEED it! Protein gives us sustained energy and helps prevent mood swings.  Think eggs, fish, lean meat, and nuts.

3. No More Sugar – While sugar might give you some immediate energy, that sugar-high is quickly forgotten once you hit that sugar-low. As soon as your energy starts to fade, your mood will also plummet and you’ll have a tough time rebounding. Repeat after me: sugar is not a mood-stabilizer.

4.(Complex) Carbs are Your Friends: Our brains need carbohydrates to produce serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, and some whole grains are ideal. Simple carbohydrates (think doughnuts, Cheetos) lack nutrients and contain a lot of refined sugar, ultimately disrupting our serotonin release. Complex carbs for the win!

5. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps to improve blood-flow, fuel your brain, and keep you fuller longer. Try to get at least 8 glasses of water a day (good news for LaCroix lovers) and limit soda and other sugary drinks. Helpful Hint: wine doesn’t count as hydration.

6. Limit Caffeine: I like my coffee just as much as everybody else in the morning. But try to limit it to a cup or two. Too much caffeine has been shown to worsen symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. If you notice withdrawal symptoms (headache, irritability) when you miss your daily cup of Joe, it may be time to cut back.

7. Take Your Vitamins: If you’re not already taking a multi-vitamin, talk with your doctor about how you should be supplementing your current diet. Deficiencies in vitamins such as D3 and Folate have been shown to increase your risk of depression. Many others also play a role, so make note to chat with your Dr. about this at your next appointment.

8. Stick to Whole Foods: Eating whole, nutrient-dense foods is ideal and will give your mind + body the sustained energy it needs to get through the day. Look for small areas where you can make healthy swaps and you’ll instantly notice positive changes in the way you feel.