t's all too easy to fall into the habit of over or under eating when we’re juggling a blue mood. I mean, who hasn’t reached for a comforting block of chocolate when they’re having a bad day? The good news is that chocolate, at least in moderation, might be just what the doctor ordered.
The chips, pizza, and wine? Not so much! what we eat can have a huge impact on our moods. Clinical research has shown that people with a high proportion of processed foods in their diet are at greater risk of depression. Conversely, a 12-week randomised controlled trial into dietary intervention in the treatment of depression found that a nutritious diet can help relieve anxiety and help fight depression.
Foods that are high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid our bodies convert to make serotonin, are ideal. A natural mood stabiliser, serotonin carries signals from the brain cells to other nervous system cells, helping to reduce depression, regulate anxiety and increase feelings of well-being, and happiness. It also helps regulate people’s sleep patterns as it produces the hormone melatonin.
So, what are the best foods to boost your mood?
Primarily found in fish oil and marine algae, Omega-3 fatty acids are known to benefit eye and heart health, boost memory, and fight inflammation. But research indicates that two omega-3 fatty acids —EPA and DHA— are also beneficial in preventing and managing mood disorders. Fish with high levels of omega-3 include salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel and herring as well as canned sardines and salmon.
Not only do Bananas contain tryptophan, they’re chock full of fibre, potassium and pectin, which helps moderate blood sugar levels after meals, as well as vitamins A, C and B6, which has been shown to balance moods and help with symptoms of premenstrual depression.
Winner winner chicken dinner! Naturally high in protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus, chicken also contains high amounts of feel good tryptophan plus B vitamins like niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, which play a key role in brain function and energy production.
Not only do walnuts look like brains they can help to support brain function and reduce depression symptoms. High in the protein, vitamin E and B6, Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids that. Said to boost testosterone levels, Brazil nuts are another super powered nut. One of the best dietary sources of selenium, low levels of which have been shown to lead to a higher risk of irritability, anxiety and depression.
Spinach, kale and their leafy pals are packed with magnesium, something a staggering 30 per cent of women over the age of 51 are not getting enough of in their daily diets. Magnesium can have a positive impact on serotonin levels, with deficiencies in the magical mineral have been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Low in calories but high in fibre, berries are the colourful antioxidants warriors of the food world, combating inflammation caused by free radical damage and repairing cells. Not only does a fistful of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or cranberries lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, they also contain polyphenols which can help activate brain pathways associated with better cognition, memory and concentration.
Feeling blue? Grab an avo. Low in carbohydrates but high in healthy fats, potassium, tryptophan and folate, as well as stress-fighting B vitamins, these jolly green giants of nutrition also contain Omega-3 to help regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters.
We’ve saved the best until last! Is there anything chocolate can’t do? Cacao is not only delicious but can provide a healthy, happiness high five thanks to the presence of serotonin boosting tryptophan, relaxing magnesium, anandamide –– AKA the bliss molecule, and flavonoids that have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain. Packed with antioxidants and flavanols that may help to protect the heart, it’s also good for you! So, there’s no need to feel guilty having a hit of Cacao or dark chocolate (with a high percentage of cacao) when the mood strikes.