Use food to improve your mood and mental health! Did you know that the food choices we make can have a dramatic affect on the way we feel? When we feel good about ourselves, we are also more likely to make healthy food choices. Below, I’ve outlined my favourite foods to enjoy, and foods to avoid, to help kickstart a healthier, happier you.
Food to improve your mood:
Smart fats – the omega 3 and 6 fats found in oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel), raw and unsalted nuts and seeds. Research shows that smart fats have a positive effect on brain health. These fats play a critical part in the structure and function of the brain and, therefore, can directly affect our mood. However, these fats cannot be made by the body, so they must come from our daily intake of food. As such, you should aim to include some oily fish in your diet two to three times a week, and have a handful of nuts or seeds each day either as a snack, or sprinkled on your breakfast cereal or salad.
Complex carbohydrates – oats, brown rice, rye bread, pulses, vegetables. Complex carbohydrates help to stabilise our blood sugar levels. Fluctuations in blood sugar can cause mood swings, irritability and depression. Complex carbohydrates also contain key brain boosting nutrients, such as the B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Protein – eggs, fish, chicken, pulses, nuts, seeds, red meat, and dairy but in moderation. Protein is vital for brain health and maintaining blood sugar levels, so try to include a portion at each meal.
Tryptophan – found in fish, chicken, turkey, oats, eggs, cheese and beans. Tryptophan is an amino acid, which our body converts into serotonin – our ‘happy hormone’. If you want to boost your mood, include some tryptophan containing foods in your diet every day.
Bad mood foods:
Sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine – this includes white bread, pasta, cake, many breakfast cereals, chocolate and fizzy drinks. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar plays havoc with blood sugar levels. This is why knocking back the teas, coffees ultimately leads to a low mood. Diets based on refined foods can reduce nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and the B vitamins, which are all vital for good brain health.
Brain toxins – food additives or the presence of heavy metals in your system, such as lead and mercury can affect brain health. Food intolerances can also play a part in depression and if you are a sufferer, it is well worth speaking to your nutritional therapist about following an elimination diet or carrying out testing to ascertain the culprit foods. We can test your body for heavy metals by using hair mineral analysis or blood tests.
Saturated fat – found in meat and dairy products, and hydrogenated fats found in some margarines and processed foods. These fats interfere with the metabolism of your essential fats.