5 mood-boosting foods that will lift your spirit

If you have ever felt a little down in the dumps, chances are you’ve found yourself rummaging through the fridge or cupboard for a quick pick-me-up. It’s not just boredom hunger, in fact, the psychological link between mood and food is far more ingrained than we think.

It’s no secret that the fuel that we put in our bodies has the ability to transform our physical health, but that encompasses our mental health as well. Understanding what your body needs to function for brain health, heart health and overall nutrition is paramount.

The food we eat and their results on our mood are intrinsically linked, and once understood what foods we thrive on and what foods we dive on, we can eat in a way that is conducive to managing mental health, energy, focus and our overall feeling of wellbeing.

The role of diet and nutrition on mental health is very complex and has yet to be fully understood, with more and more research pointing to a very strong link.

Mood food link is especially highlighted when you have a nutrient deficiency, in particular; zinc, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids.

Lacking these essential nutrients is associated with poor mood quality and decreased energy and why wholefood nutrients can help balance out what we can’t achieve through our diet. Here are 5 mood-boosting foods that will lift your spirits:

1. Dark chocolate

Chocolate is rich in many mood-boosting feel-good compounds, such as caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine — a substance chemically similar to cannabinoids that has been linked to improved mood. Chocolate is high in health-promoting flavonoids, which have been shown to increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health, all of which may support mood regulation. It also has a high hedonic rating, meaning that its pleasurable taste, texture, and smell may also promote good mood.

My advice is to opt for dark chocolate, which is higher in flavonoids and raw cacao and lower in added sugar or fillers.

2. Fatty fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fats that you must obtain through your diet because your body can’t produce them on its own. Fatty fish like salmon and albacore tuna are rich in two types of omega-3s (DHA and EPA), that are linked to lower levels of depression. Omega-3s contribute to the fluidity of your brain’s cell membrane and appear to play key roles in brain development and cell signalling. Most experts agree that adults should get at least 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day.

3. Fermented foods

Fermented foods, which include kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut or a sprouted and fermented protein may improve gut health and mood. The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids, during this process, probiotics are created. These live microorganisms support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and may increase serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects many facets of human behaviour, such as mood, stress response, appetite, and sexual drive. Up to 90 per cent of your body’s serotonin is produced by your gut microbiome, or the collection of healthy bacteria in your gut.

In addition, the gut microbiome plays a role in brain health. Research is beginning to show a connection between healthy gut bacteria and lower rates of depression.

4. Berries

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to lower rates of depression. Although the mechanism isn’t clear, a diet rich in antioxidants may help manage inflammation associated with depression and other mood  disorders. Berries pack a wide range of antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which play a key role in combatting oxidative stress, an imbalance of harmful compounds in your body.

They’re particularly high in anthocyanins, a pigment that gives certain berries their purple-blue colour. One study associated a diet rich in anthocyanins with a 39 per cent lower risk of depression symptoms.  Good news is that if you can’t find or afford them fresh, you can buy frozen berries, which are frozen at their peak ripeness to retain the maximum amount of antioxidants.

5. Bananas

Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesise feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

One large banana provides 16 grams of sugar and 3.5 grams of fibre. When paired with fibre, sugar is released slowly into your bloodstream, allowing for stable blood sugar levels and better mood control. As mentioned above, blood sugar levels that are too low may lead to irritability and mood swings.

When bananas are still showing green on the peel, they are an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fibre that helps feed healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome is associated with lower rates of mood disorders.

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