I’ve been working to a pretty tight deadline this week, which has meant several long days at my desk. It’s been pretty tiring work and I must confess that I’ve been reaching for the coffee pot and the biscuit tin one too many times.
I’ve noticed that my intake of sugary, caffeine-filled foods and drinks has been making me feel jittery and on edge. I’m also pretty tired and struggling to focus. I’ve therefore decided to give my diet an overhaul and do a bit of research into foods which are said to help boost your mood naturally. I hope you and I will both benefit from what I’ve learned.
Well, straight away it turns out that I’m doing something right, as my favourite fruit, bananas, are a great mood-boosting food. They contain the amino acid tryptophan which converts in the brain to the ‘feelgood’ hormone serotonin. Not only does this help to reduce anxiety and lift your mood, but it also aids with sleep – another bonus.
Top tip: Oats are another effective mood booster because they slowly release energy into the bloodstream therefore keeping your blood sugar and mood stable. Start your day with a breakfast of porridge oats and a sliced banana for the perfect mood-boosting meal.
Brazil nuts are a good source of the mineral selenium which helps to raise mood levels. Studies show that low levels of selenium can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability and fatigue. Eating just three Brazil nuts a day can provide your recommended daily amount of this vital mineral.
Top tip: Include them as a mid-morning snack or chop them up and sprinkle them into a salad for a crunchy topping.
You might associate turkey with thanksgiving, but this mood-boosting meat is well worth incorporating regularly in your diet as it’s another good source of the amino acid tryptophan. As mentioned above, the body converts tryptophan into serotonin, one of the most important neurotransmitters affecting mood, and it also uses it to make the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate sleep.
Turkey also contains the amino acid tyrosine, which is used to make the hormone adrenaline. Low levels of adrenaline have been associated with depression, so perhaps stocking up on turkey can help alleviate some symptoms of depression.
Top tip: Swap your usual ham sandwich for turkey as it’s a leaner option and could help to improve your mood.
Green, leafy vegetables
Remember when your mom used to nag you to eat your greens when you were young? Well it turns out she was right, as they are a great source of B vitamins – and the B vitamins folate and vitamin B12 are particularly important for mood.
Studies have shown that low levels of these vitamins can be linked to depression. In fact it is thought that the production of serotonin can actually be hindered by low levels of B vitamins. So it’s time to stock up on green, leafy veg like spinach, broccoli and curly kale.
Top tip: I’m not a huge fan of spinach, but I find that wilting it and adding it to an omelet is a tasty way of getting my fill of my least liked vegetable. The added bonus is that eggs are rich in vitamin B12, which makes for a double boost of B vits.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, are said to help ward off depression, negativity and mood swings. In addition, wild salmon and tuna are good sources of vitamin B12, which helps to regulate mood, as mentioned above.
Eating a diet high in omega-3 will also help to keep your brain healthy and enable the brain’s neurotransmitters to work more effectively. An all-round brain booster!
Top tip: If you’re a vegetarian, like me, then other non-fishy sources of omega-3 fatty acids include ground flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs.
About the author: Liz Parry is a writer specialising in holistic health and wellbeing, personal development and spirituality.