If your spirits are in need of a lift, look no further than your kitchen. It would appear that you really are what you eat, but did you know that diet plays a big role in how happy you are? Yes, it turns out you can actually eat yourself happy with the right feel-good foods. Of course, if you feel that you may be suffering from a mental health issue, it is crucial to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Most of the time, however, you may just find yourself in need of a gentle boost to beat the Monday Blues or banish the dreaded 3pm slump. While you may be tempted to grab the sugary treats, reach for these healthier options that promise to boost your mood (and health!) instead.
Now that we know our diet can play a big role in how happy we are, we enlisted the help of dietitian Helen Bond to name the foods that help you smile.
Here’s a list of feel-good foods to try when you’re feeling blue:
This power food is packed with vitamin B12, which is vital for steering clear of depression and maintaining mental health. Salmon also contains mood-stabilising fatty acids. Helen reveals that omega-3 fats, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that’s a component of every cell in your body) are highly concentrated in the brain and are important for normal brain function and overall mental health.
Ahh, a summer favourite! They taste great and are rich in vitamin C, which, new studies show, may play a role in regulating mood.
‘Wholegrain carbs release their energy slowly, keeping blood-sugar levels steady – so they’re better for refuelling the brain and enhancing mood,’ says Helen.
Lentils are rich in folate (vitamin B9), which may show promise in helping to ease depression symptoms. Studies show that folate helps break down the amino acid homocysteine (high levels may be linked to depression).
These protect your heart, are packed with fibre, and have been shown to act as natural hormone balancers in women, which allows your brain to make the right chemicals needed to ensure you feel good.
Chicken & Turkey
Both chicken and turkey are a good source of mood-boosting tryptophan. This amino acid helps increase melatonin levels in the brain, which regulates sleep and is vital for a healthy mind and body.
Like poultry, this fab lunchbox filler is also packed with tryptophan, along with vitamins B6 and C, plus potassium – a great all-rounder!
Helen explains, ‘All nuts are rich in plant protein, fibre, unsaturated fats, vitamin E, and magnesium – which is important for psychological wellbeing.’ Stick to a small handful, though!
A great veggie that’s full of vitamins, spinach is also high in iron. Helen warns, ‘Tiredness, poor concentration and a low mood can be attributed to anaemia – an energy-zapping condition that’s caused by low iron levels.’
Sesame seeds contain L-tyrosine – an amino acid that helps boost dopamine levels in the brain. But how do we get them into our diet? Sprinkle on salads and soups, or add them to a smoothie.
Full of antioxidants, which have been found to affect mood. No overdosing on wine, though! Stay happy with a bunch of fresh, red grapes instead.