Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Foods to Boost your Mood

Obviously I don't mean grabbing a tub of Haagen Dazs and devouring the whole thing (which of course feels nice at the time, but has many drawbacks as we know)!  Eating a well balanced diet with a variety of foods is not only good for our physical health, but what we eat can also have a significant impact on our mental wellbeing.  More and more evidence is coming to light which shows that what we eat affects our mood and how we feel.  So here's my Top 10 foods that may enhance our mood boosting neurotransmitter 'serotonin' to help increase energy, mood and general well-being.
  1. Oily Fish - On average people are not getting enough EFA's.  Studies have shown that people who are deficient in omega 3 may be more susceptible to depression and low mood.  Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines.  Our brain is 60% structural fat, around 30% in the form of Omega 3's.  Eating a diet high in omega 3 will keep your brain cells healthy and improve mood by keeping the brain's neurotransmitters working more effectively.
  2. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of the mineral selenium. In recent years, people have been consuming less selenium, but eating just three Brazil nuts a day can provide your recommended daily amount (RDA).   Studies have shown increased depression, irritability, anxiety and tiredness in people with low selenium levels therefore by eating a few Brazil nuts a couple of times a week might help to improve your mood.  Other foods high in selenium include sunflower seeds, fish, shellfish, caviar, some grains (see oats below), liver and bacon.
  3. Oats are an effective mood booster. This is because they have a low glycaemic index (GI), as they slowly release energy into our bloodstream rather than by a quick rush that soon dips. This helps to keep your blood sugar and mood stable. The mineral selenium in oats can also help mood by regulating the function of the thyroid gland.
  4. Bananas contain the important amino acid tryptophan and also vitamins A, B6 and C, fibre, potassium, phosphorous, iron and carbohydrate. Mood-boosting carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, and vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into the mood boosting hormone serotonin. This helps to boost your mood and also aids good sleep.  Because of its ability to raise serotonin levels, tryptophan has been used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. It's the potassium in bananas that make them such a good snack for those feeling stressed or tired.  Just try and make sure you don't eat them if they have over ripened too much.  Softer squishy bananas have a higher Gi than firmer ones.
  5. Eat chicken and turkey breast to increase your intake of the amino acid tryptophan. After your Christmas turkey meal ever felt in need of a little snooze?  If the answer is yes then that's due to the tryptophan bringing on the feelings of happiness, comfort and well-being.  Poultry also contains another amino acid tyrosine, which can help reduce symptoms of depression as well as help avoid feeling the blues in the first place. Tyrosine is used to make the hormone adrenaline, low levels of which have been associated with depression.
  6. Spinach -  Certain deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to depression and serotonin production can actually be hindered by low B vitamin levels. Important B vitamins to look out for include folate, vitamins B3, B6 and B12.  Eating a variety of vegetables and especially leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, purple sprouting, cabbage, brussel sprouts and broccoli, for example will help keep your levels up.
  7. Lentils are a fantastic kitchen staple. They're a complex carbohydrate, so like bananas, they have the added benefit of helping to increase the brains production of serotonin. This results in a calmer, happier state of mind with less anxiety.  Stabilising your blood sugar level is important to maintain a stable mood. Lentils are also high in folate, deficiencies in this vitamin have been linked to depression and mania. Lentils can also boost your iron levels which will give you energy and therefore put you in a better mood.
  8. Water is extremely important for our bodies to function properly, the smallest degree of water loss can impair our physical and mental wellbeing. It's not only our body that is affected by hydration but also our brain. So when dehydrated, it can affect our ability to concentrate.  Adults should be drinking up to 2 litres of water spread throughout the day.  If you think water is boring, you may dilute a little fresh juice in to perk it up a lttle.
  9. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many health problems such as depression, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.  The best source of vitamin D is sunlight (the action of sunlight on the skin allows our bodies to manufacture vitamin D), but if you aren't getting enough sun, try to include foods that include vitamin D in your diet such as dairy and cheese products, liver and oily fish. Calcium can also help reduce your levels of stress and anxiety.
  10. Iv'e left the best to last - yes its 'chocolate', hurrah, but the darker the better, ideally more than 70% cocoa. The good news is chocolate isn't only a delicious treat, but it can also give your mood a lift as well.  A small square of dark chocolate can cause the brain to release endorphins (our natural pain suppressors) and boost serotonin levels. In a recent study, 30 people were given 40g of dark chocolate, over 14 days. The results showed that chocolate eaters produced less stress hormones and their anxiety levels actually decreased.  Just be sensible, although if you buy very dark chocolate it is often a little bit bitter, so quite hard to chomp through the whole bar, believe me I've tried :)
Here's hoping you find some of this useful, till next time.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment