Feeling down? It could be due to your diet:
the foods you eat actually play a vital role in how you
feel. While it can be tempting to indulge in comfort food to lift your spirits on a bad day, sugary and fatty treats will cause spikes in blood sugar and mood swings. On the other hand, the right nutrients can improve your mood, ease stress and even help fight depression
I’ve created a list of the top mood-boosting foods you can eat to lift your spirits. Take a look:
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain
health and are thought to lower the risk of depression. These acids play a key role in helping your
brain cells release chemical messengers (neurotransmitters). Other foods high in omega-3 include
flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soya beans. Your body can’t produce omega-3 on its own, so It’s a good idea to eat foods rich in omega-3 regularly.
It’s official: chocolate really does make you happy! Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and mood-boosting compounds, and research has found indulging in a small amount each day for two weeks reduces stress hormones. Dark chocolate also increases blood flow in the brain and has anti-
inflammatory properties. To stay healthy, it’s best to choose dark chocolate rather than milk
chocolate, which has added fat and sugar.
Did you know that up to 90% of the body’s feel-good hormone serotonin is made in the gut? In fact,
there’s increasing evidence to show that a healthy gut corresponds to a good mood. Fermented
foods like live yogurt and sauerkraut are high in probiotics, known to improve gut health and
increase serotonin levels. It’s been suggested that probiotics have a positive impact on depression,
Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesise feel-good chemicals like dopamine and
serotonin. They’re also a healthy way to get a sugar fix: because bananas have plenty of fibre, the
sugar they contain is released slowly, meaning you avoid the mood swings brought on by spikes and dips in your blood sugar.
Want a healthy breakfast that keeps you in good spirits throughout the morning? Whole grains
found in certain breads and cereals slowly release energy into the bloodstream, keeping your blood sugar levels – and your mood – stable. Whole grain oats are thought to be especially beneficial because they’re also a great source of iron. Foods high in iron protect against anaemia, which can cause fatigue and mood disorders.
It’s thought that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of depression because these
foods are high in antioxidants. Dark berries, and in particular blueberries, are packed full of
antioxidants called flavonoids which help regulate mood, boost memory and protect the brain from
Nuts and seeds
A handful of nuts a day can keep bad moods at bay. Nuts and seeds such as sesame and pumpkin seeds are packed with serotonin-boosting nutrients. Walnuts and almonds are also great sources of essential fatty acids including omega-3. Don’t go overboard if you’re watching your weight though, as nuts are also high in calories!
It seems coffee is the world’s most popular drink for a reason. We all know coffee makes us more
alert, but it also promotes your body’s production of the happy-hormone dopamine. In fact, studies
have suggested that up to 2 cups a day could help protect against depression. If drinking coffee
makes you jittery, I’ve some good news for you: studies have found decaf also has mood-boosting
Beans and lentils
In addition to being high in fibre, protein and iron, beans and lentils are full of feel-good nutrients.
They’re rich in B vitamins, which increase your body’s levels of the chemicals serotonin, dopamine
and norepinephrine, all of which are vital for regulating mood. Beans and lentils also release energy slowly, so they help keep your mood even throughout the day.
You’ve probably heard that vitamin C is good for your immune system, but did you know it’s also
essential for creating happy hormones in the body? Vitamin C is needed to produce dopamine and
serotonin. Bell peppers (especially red ones) are super-high in vitamin C; in fact a bell pepper
contains more vitamin C than an orange!
Spinach and other green vegetables such as broccoli are high in the B vitamin folate, which is
important for the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Research has found a link between
low folate levels and depression, so it’s a good idea to make folate-rich foods a regular part of your diet.
Chicken and turkey
Poultry, in particular turkey, is high in the amino acid tryptophan, which the body needs to make
serotonin. Tryptophan also helps your body produce the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep.
Other great sources of tryptophan include eggs, cheese and sesame seeds.
Foods to avoid
Hydrogenated fats and oils
While some fats (found in fish oil and nuts and seeds, for example) are great for your physical health and your mood, others have the opposite effect. Hydrogenated or ‘trans’ fats are artificially created fats that are often found in processed and takeaway meals. These fats can cause health problems, affect brain function and have been linked to depression.
Food high in refined sugar
The problem with refined sugar is it’s addictive. It gives you an energy spike (so you feel good in the short term) followed by a dip which makes you feel tired and cranky – and leaves you craving more sugar to feel good again! Stick to complex carbs instead, which give you a sustained energy boost.
Drinking alcohol might cause a pleasant and relaxed state of mind in the short term, but it can also
disrupt your sleeping patterns, and can leave you feeling irritable and unfocussed the following day. Over-consumption can cause mood crashes and illness too, so it’s best to enjoy in moderation.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful! What foods boost your mood? Do you have a great mood-
boosting recipe to share?
Tell me in the comments below - I’d love to hear from you!