If you are looking for ways to lift your mood – it might be possible to achieve this through the food you eat…
Okay, before you get too excited, I am not referring to the quick high we all get from binging on mars bars.
I am talking about the sustainable boost that comes from key nutrients that our brains crave in order to maintain our mood and mental health – nutrients that we sometimes forget to get enough of. Have a look at the list below to see which ones you might be missing out on, then get cooking and eating to your heart’s (or brain’s) content…
Being anaemic (i.e. too little iron in the blood) leads to fatigue and lethargy and possibly depression. Basically, your blood does not have the iron it needs to carry oxygen to your cells. Pulses like beans / chickpeas / lentils are good sources of iron. Other foods to consider include spinach, dried fruit, nuts mussels and red meat.
This mineral controls our response to stress. Low levels of Zinc can result in depression. Foods like oysters and mussels are excellent sources for Zinc, as are Pulses like chickpeas /lentils / beans; seeds like Hemp / Pumpkin / Sesame; and dairy products like milk / cheese / yoghurt.
Essential fatty acids in particular Omega 3.
Omega 3 is essential to brain health (our brains are made up from Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats). Omega 3 in particular is known to improve thinking, memory and mood. It is also essential for protection against cardiovascular disease. We can get Omega 3 from seeds like Chia or Hemp seeds; Walnuts; Seaweed; Leafy green vegetables; Brussel Sprouts, Oily fish like Salmon / Mackerel and sea food.
If you are low on B12 you would be susceptible to more depression / low moods and even brain inflammation. You can get B12 from Milk; Cheese; Eggs; Sardines; Tuna; Salmon; Offal (kidney, liver, etc.); and fortified products like soy milk or breakfast cereals.
Our brains are highly sophisticated computers that run best when fed with the best fuel. Just as you would not run a Lamborghini on low grade petrol (or indeed add some water to the tank!); same applies to the fuel that our brains use in order to continually run our bodies, manage our mood and renew itself. An equivalent of adding water to the tank would be overconsumption of highly processed /refined foods – e.g. refined sugar. Multiple studies have found a correlation between diets high in refined sugars and impaired brain function.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps us regulate our mood and mental health; it also maintains sleep patterns and manages pain. Serotonin is made in our gut and then travels up the vagus nerve to the brain. It stands to reason therefore that anything that impacts our gut will impact our levels of Serotonin and in turn our mood. Foods that maintain our gut health – e.g. foods high in fibre and some fermented foods can have significant impact on our mood and mental health.
The thing is we all have different combinations of bacteria in our guts and therefore what will be inflammatory for me might be exactly what your gut thrives on.
You could start by trying to have a very clean diet for a week or two (i.e. no processed foods, no sugar); and then slowly introduce different foods to see how you feel.
Ola is a qualified nutritionist who specialises in areas such as nutrition solutions for health conditions, meal plans and food intolerances..
Check out Ola’s services here 🙂