Good Mood Foods

Dietitian and author of Health & the City, Caitlin Reid, explains how to use food to boost your frame of mind.

You are what you eat. So if you’re finding yourself moody, tired and slightly depressed, changing the foods you eat may help improve how you feel.

There’s a connection between your body and mind – what you eat not only fuels your body, it influences how you feel. From the pleasure of cooking and eating to the changes in brain chemistry that food can bring, there are many reasons why your food choices impacts on your mood. So if you’re feeling a bit down, just a few small tweaks to your diet may lift your spirits in no time. Read on to see which mood food you should be eating and those you should be limiting.

Make sure you eat:

Salmon: Topping the list of excellent mood foods is of course salmon, which is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. A healthy brain depends on omega-3 fats, as they’re a major component of brain cell membranes and are crucial for keeping brain signals moving smoothly. Research suggests that omega-3 fats can help reduce depressive symptoms. So, be sure to add salmon to your weekly shopping list.

Oats: Being a source of low-GI carbohydrates, oats help to control sugar levels, which can help maintain energy levels and mood. Carbohydrates also influence serotonin levels in the body. Serotonin is a brain chemical that boosts mood and relaxes us. Start the day the happy way with a bowl of porridge or muesli.

Low-fat milk: Packed with protein and carbohydrates, low-fat milk is bound to brighten your day. It contains the amino acid tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels in the body. However to do this, tryptophan must get into the brain and it requires insulin to do this. This is where the carbohydrates in the milk become important – they increase insulin levels, which helps drive tryptophan into the brain so it can be used to make serotonin. Milk = better mood.

Avocado: Apart from containing tryptophan, avocadoes also contain vitamin B6, which is an essential vitamin needed in the manufacturing of serotonin from tryptophan. Inadequate vitamin B6 disrupts the formation and functioning of serotonin, which may cause depression.

Chickpeas: Chickpeas are rich in folate, another B vitamin important for the regulation of mood and proper nerve functioning in the brain. Low levels of folate have been linked to depression, as inadequate folate appears to impair the metabolism of serotonin. Include chickpeas in a salad, pasta or couscous dish.

Make sure you consume less:

Coffee: It has the fantastic ability to get us going in the morning, but have too much coffee and you’ll end up jittery. Make sure you don’t eliminate coffee completely though – cut it down gradually. In particular, avoid coffee in the afternoon so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep and you wake the next day with loads of energy.

Alcohol: In small amounts alcohol can produce a temporary feeling of euphoria, but this ‘feel good’ beverage is actually a depressant that affects all nerve cells. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, people can quickly turn to an emotionally unstable state. Alcohol abuse can lead to depressive disorders, so make sure you enjoy in moderation.

Sugary foods: If you’re like many of us, come 3pm and you’re probably searching the pantry or your desk drawers for a sugar fix. It might be chocolate, a slice of cake or a couple of sweet biscuits, but either way the sugar hit is bound to give you a temporary boost of energy only to have you crushing back down moments later. Choose low-GI carbohydrates instead.

Caitlin Reid’s book is Health & The City (Longueville media), or you can visit her blog:

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