As we are all trying our best to navigate these trying times, it is more important than ever to look after our mental health. As well as exercising regularly, we can also use food to improve our emotional outlook. We’ve listed 6 ingredients to incorporate into your diet, each containing different nutrients to give you that much-needed boost during the winter months, not to mention lockdown!
Studies have shown that those who eat more fish such as salmon are less likely to suffer from anxiety and low moods. This is thanks to the 2 types of omega-3 fatty acids it contains (DHA and EPA) which alter brain chemicals linked with dopamine and serotonin. As well as helping with your omega-3 levels, salmon is high in protein, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. For vegetarians, chia seeds and flax seeds are great plant-based sources of omega-3.
For more doses of dopamine, simply have a banana a day. As well as being high in Vitamin B6, which creates dopamine to make you feel happier, the combination of fibre and sugar found in a banana stabilizes blood sugar levels. This controls your mood as low blood sugar levels can cause irritability and mood swings.
It’s no surprise that coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world when you learn that it can improve our mood. It helps release dopamine and norepinephrine and the caffeine increases alertness and attention, giving us an all-round mood-boost. Just remember to drink plenty of water too!
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are full of feel-good nutrients and fit into most diets. As well as being high in protein and fibre, they are an excellent source of B vitamins, all of which can lift our mood. Furthermore, they contain zinc, magnesium, selenium, and non-heme iron, which can all elevate your spirits further!
There are many different ways to add spinach, kale, collards or whichever dark leafy greens you enjoy to meals. All are rich in a whole load of mood-boosting nutrients… magnesium can help reduce anxiety, B vitamins boost brain function and they are a particularly good source of iron. There is evidence that iron deficiency is linked to altered emotional behaviour and anxiety, so by eating our greens and increasing our iron intake, it helps us produce energy, enabling us to keep active and feel positive as a result.
The last on our list will come as no surprise… chocolate makes you happy! You can feel much less guilty the next time you indulge, safe in the knowledge that chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which boosts endorphins, and ananadamide, otherwise known as ‘the bliss chemical’. It’s also a rich source of magnesium and iron which help us relax. To stay healthy, try dark chocolate and don’t forget – enjoy in moderation!