Did you know that the food you eat can have a direct impact on your mood? I am not talking about the short term boost you may get when you eat some chocolate or whatever your go to junk food may be, instead I am talking about long term mood-boosting foods that are also healthy for your body.
So let’s dive right into the list and discuss each food and what it can bring to the table of mood.
Brazil Nuts – This nutty little friend is one of the best sources of selenium. People with low levels of this mineral can suffer from increased rates of depression, irritability, anxiety and tiredness.
FLOW tip: Just three Brazil Nuts per day can get you your RDA. You can have them as part of a snack, or add them to a salad or stir-fry.
Oily Fish – Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty acid are vital to your body and especially your brain to function optimally, this is because 60% of your brain’s dry weight is made up of fat, of which 30% comes from omega 3.
Research has shown that people who are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids can be more at risk of depression and low mood. So, by including this into your diet or supplementing the omega 3, you can improve the health of your brain and how effectively it works.
FLOW Tip: Eat at least one serving of oily fish per week. Try pan frying or grilling some salmon for your lunch or dinner.
Oats – Oats are low on the glycaemic index (GI), which means your body takes longer to digest them. How is this important? Well, it means that your blood sugar levels don’t rise so quickly as they would with processed food. When you ingest something that is high on the glycaemic index you will experience a rush that will dips quickly. This is why people can feel lethargic or experience cravings as your body tries to regulate your blood sugar levels. Eating a food such as oats will help to regulate these spikes in blood sugar levels, and also contain selenium.
FLOW Tip: Overnight oats or porridge is a quick and easy breakfast option that will set you up for the day ahead. You can try adding fruit, nuts, yoghurt, chia seeds, or honey for some added flavour.
Bananas – Bananas to stop you from going bananas! Bananas are full of goodness. They contain tryptophan, an amino acid that when combined with vitamin B6 has the ability to raise your serotonin levels. It has been used to treat a variety of conditions, such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. Bananas also contain vitamins A, B6 and C, fibre, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and carbohydrate.
So, if you’re struggling with sleep, a banana may be able to help.
FLOW Tip: Slice some banana into your morning porridge or have it as a snack.
Lentils – Lentils are a complex carbohydrate and also contain a good source of protein. Like bananas they can help to increase levels of serotonin in the body. Leading to a better mood and a calmer state of mind. As they are a complex carbohydrate this also puts them on low on the glycaemic index, meaning stable blood sugar levels. They are also high in folate, which has been linked to depression and mania in people with folate deficiency. Finally, the iron levels contained in lentils will also help to boost your energy levels.
FLOW Tip: Make a lentil soup or add them into a stew. Make sure you soak the lentils for a few hours to ensure they can be digested properly.
Chicken & Turkey – As well as being a fantastic source of protein, chicken & turkey are also hiding some other goodies. They include the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine. Tryptophan is used by your body to produce serotonin – a vital neurotransmitter when it comes to mood, that also helps to make the hormone melatonin. A hormone which helps your body to regulate sleep. Tyrosine can help to reduce symptoms of depression as it is used by your body to produce adrenaline – low levels of adrenaline have been linked to depression.
FLOW Tip: Include chicken or turkey into your weekly food intake. You can add the meat to pretty much anything. Just not a dessert!
Spinach – Leafy green vegetables such as spinach contain high levels of important B vitamins. This is important for you as serotonin production in your body can be hindered by low levels of B vitamins. Deficiencies is certain B vitamins have been linked to depression.
FLOW Tip: Throw a cup of spinach into an omelette or make a nice salad with it. You can get up to 30% of your RDA in certain B vitamins from just one cup of spinach. It may not make you pop like Popeye but it will certainly boost your mood!
Fortified Cereal – This is a fantastic source of calcium, which has been shown to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. Be careful which cereal you go for though, as many available cereals in the supermarkets are loaded with sugar and highly processed, which will result in blood sugar spikes. Go for cereals such as granola, muesli, Weetabix, Branflakes, and as mentioned earlier, porridge. Just be sure to avoid added sugar options.
FLOW Tip: Avoid skimmed milks. Instead go for whole milk, or an alternative such as almond milk.
Dark chocolate – Ditch the milk chocolate and get some dark chocolate! Studies have shown that people who consume dark chocolate on a regular basis will experience less stress and decreased levels of anxiety. This doesn’t mean you can go and have a whole large bar on a daily basis as clearly this will have an negative effect in terms of weight gain. A few small squares should be enough for your brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels.
FLOW Tip: Choose a product that contains 70% cocoa or more.
Oysters – You’ve probably heard that oysters are an aphrodisiac, but they also have so many benefits for mental health. They are high in zinc, which is essential for energy and brain health. People who suffer from depression have been found to be deficient in zinc. They also contain tyrosine, this was mentioned previously as being essential for your brain to produce the chemicals that are needed to improve your mood.
FLOW Tip: Oysters can be a bit pricey and an acquired taste so save it as a wee treat from time to time. Unless of course you enjoy them regularly. All it takes is three oysters to get more than 100% of your RDA of zinc.
Water- Now I probably don’t need to go into this too much or emphasise the importance of water for your body. I assume most people understand the physical feelings of dehydration, but do you understand how it can affect you mentally? The smallest amount of water loss can negatively affect you. It can limit concentration and make us irritable.
FLOW Tip: We recommend a minimum of 2L per day. Get into the habit of keeping a water bottle with you wherever you go, or fill your glass each time it becomes empty. If you want to jazz up the flavour a bit, you can add cucumber, berries, or some citrus fruit.
What can you take away from this? Well, there is a lot of awareness nowadays as to the negative affect of a poor diet on our physical health but not so much awareness onto our mental health. Doctors will prescribe medications to people who are suffering from issues such as anxiety or depression. But is that really the answer when there a clear correlation between food and our mood?
If you are someone who is experiencing low mood or mental health problems then I hope this may have given you some insight into how making some small changes to your nutrition may positively affect you.
In Health and Wellbeing,