A healthy diet has a significant impact on our mood and brain. Fuelling our brains with essential nutrients allows us to have more energy and feel good mentally. The pandemic and lockdown have made it challenging to constantly be in a good mood, and for some, it has been a real struggle. This is why it is so important to make your health a top priority.
The happy brain chemicals
Before I talk about which foods to eat, I want to mention some important brain chemicals that have an effect on your mental health. An imbalance in certain neurotransmitters can trigger mental health problems. Serotonin deficiency is the most common. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. Here below I mention the happy brain chemicals.
Dopamine is what motivates and drives us. It’s known as the reward chemical. It also controls our emotion, cognition and behaviour. It is associated with reward and pleasure. Try to concentrate on the things that matter the most to you.
Oxytocin is known as the love or cuddle hormone. It is released when you are in close contact with another person. Spend time with the people that you love and be present for those who need it the most. Oxytocin is what allows you to develop strong, special bonds.
Serotonin is linked to our happiness, well being and sleep. It regulates our sleep cycle, digestion and mood balance. Make sure you are getting plenty of good quality sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Listen to music, dance more, do yoga, meditate and practice mindfulness.
Endorphin triggers a happy feeling in the body. This chemical diminishes the perception of pain and creates a sense of euphoria. Regular exercise will release endorphins. Laughing is also good so try to watch more comedies and surround yourself with people that make you feel good.
Foods to enhance your mood
B Vitamins – There is no one food that can cure depression but B vitamins have been linked to fighting anxiety and depression. Foods rich in B vitamins include Eggs, meats, plant-based foods like whole grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary to make serotonin. Foods that contain tryptophan: wild salmon, eggs, poultry, tofu, nuts and seeds, baked potato with the skin, avocado, bananas, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, rolled oats and tahini.
Omega – 3 – Essential fatty acids deficiency has been linked to depression and Alzheimer’s. Make omega-3s an essential part of your diet. If you don’t get enough essential fatty acids from your diet, I recommend taking an omega-3 supplement. Foods rich in omega-3: Oily fish like wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and mackerel. walnuts, almonds, seeds like flaxseed, chia and hemp. Avocado, olive oil and wheatgerm.
Carbohydrates are needed for energy. Lack of glucose in your blood will result in feeling tired and weak. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include whole grains like brown rice, wholemeal bread and sweet potatoes.
Water is essential in keeping our bodies hydrated. Dehydration can have a negative impact on the brain. It can lead to low mood, poor concentration, headaches and irritability.
Blood sugar imbalance
Eating regularly during the day is important in keeping energy levels and mood stable. Try to have regular meals throughout the day. Do not go for long periods without food. Make sure you are eating every 4 hours. Eating breakfast is also important to balance blood sugar levels.
Include good quality protein with every meal such as fish, organic turkey or chicken, beans, lentils and tofu. Protein takes longer to digest and will keep you going for longer throughout the day.
If going for snacks between meals go for nuts and seeds with fruits or hummus with raw carrots and celery.
Herbs that are good: Basil, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm and marjoram.
Foods that have a negative effect on mood
I don’t expect you to never have these foods. Moderation is key. As long as you are aware that consuming large amounts of these foods can affect your mood, especially if you are not eating a nutritious diet.
Alcohol is a depressant so drink in moderation. I know that with lockdown reaching for a glass of wine seems like a good idea, but too much can actually cause depression. Balance is key.
Caffeine. Don’t worry I am not going to take your coffee away. I would suggest not having more than 2 coffees a day.
Additives, preservatives, colourIngs, flavourings, artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated fats all alter the mood.
I hope you have found the above useful, but I would like to mention that for serious depression, food alone will not be enough. If you are experiencing serious depression you need to contact your GP. Please do get in touch if you have any questions.