Mood-boosting, happiness-inducing, vitality-enhancing, all round superstar foods...
Keeping check of what we are eating, and ensuring we make healthy, nourishing food choices may not be at the top of our priority list when we are feeling down or experience depression, but what we eat and put into our bodies can make a huge difference to how we feel and our overall mood, affecting us not just physically, but psychologically as well.
It's definitely easy to forget that our brain is a working organ and needs to be supplied with adequate quality energy and brain supporting nutrients in order for it to do its job optimally. Man-made, processed food is often the first port of call when we are feeling low, as it's convenient and easily accessible, but these foods are usually laden with sugar, additives, flavourings, and preservatives, which can leave us feeling low in energy, fatigued, bloated, and down in the dumps, and ultimately craving more of the nutrient-poor processed stuff. But fear not, there's also a whole bunch of food out there that can lift our mood and make us feel great! Making consciously positive choices to reach for these nutritious, wholesome foods when we are craving the usual comfort food, will help to boost mental function, energy, and mood, and may even help to alleviate depression and other mood related conditions.
Here's my top pick of some of the most mood-boosting foods out there..
Wild-caught salmon – definitely featuring at the top of the list for mood and brain health. Wild-caught salmon is super rich in vitamin B12, an important vitamin needed for energy production, mood regulation, nervous system function, and cognition, including memory. Not only that, salmon is jam packed with anti-inflammatory, mood-balancing essential fatty acids, which help the body produce and utilise certain hormones essential for brain health.
Avocado – given the chance I think I'd have avocado with everything! Not only do they taste delicious, they are absolutely loaded with a multitude of amazing health benefits. These little beauties are natural hormone regulators and balancers, and help to make sure our brains are producing the right kind of chemicals to keep it, and us, feeling tip top and happy.
Nuts – these little guys are full of certain amino acids which the body converts into an important brain chemical called serotonin, sometimes dubbed the 'happy hormone'. Serotonin helps to regulate and control overall mood, and has often been shown to be in short supply in people suffering from depression. My top 3 nut choices would have to be cashews, brazils, and walnuts. Why? Simple, cashews are rich in magnesium, which can help to dilate blood vessels in the brain, and high in tryptophan, which helps to produce a mellow, calm feeling; brazils are an excellent source of selenium, low levels of which have also been found in people suffering from depression and anxiety, and walnuts contain high levels of brain supporting essential fatty acids and vitamin E, helping to nourish and support the nervous system – just a coincidence that walnuts look like a human brain...?
Sesame seeds – for such a small food, sesame seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch. This little seed contains an amino acid called tyrosine, which helps to turbo boost dopamine levels in the brain, another 'happy hormone' that helps regulate the organ's reward and pleasure centres. Get sprinkling on your porridge, in your smoothies, on your salads, or why not try making some deliciously creamy tahini dip.
Goji berries – goji berries have often been coined the 'happy berry', for their capacity to generate feelings of well-being, boost energy levels, and help in the fight against depression and anxiety. Loaded with antioxidants, rich in protein, and containing a whole host of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, goji berries are an excellent addition to your mood-boosting nutritional toolkit.
Asparagus – a brilliant source of happy-enhancing nutrients, one of my all-time favourite veggies, and what's more, asparagus season is just about upon us, so now is the perfect time to get asparagus crazy. Asparagus contains tryptophan and folate, important nutrients that are required to make certain neurotransmitters that affect and regulate our mood, behaviour, and emotions.
Eggs – as well as being an excellent source of protein, which can help to stabilise blood sugar, and thus overall mood, eggs also contain an amino acid called choline, which is an important building block for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports cognitive function, energy, and mood.