Did you know that your food choices can affect your mood and that your mood can affect your food choices?
Food influences our brain chemistry. Some foods promote a feeling of well-being while others can “bring us down” and supress positive emotions.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety like low mood, irritability, lack of motivation and low energy levels, it may be difficult to find the energy and motivation to make healthy food choices.
However improving your diet may help to:
- improve your mood
- give you more energy
- help you think more clearly.
Carbohydrates and mood
We all know that ‘treats’ are often the go too foods when we need some comfort. When we eat foods containing carbohydrates and sugar, they encourage the absorption of tryptophan to the brain. Tryptophan is a mood-lifting amino acid that is contained in protein foods, and is more readily absorbed when we eat carbohydrates. Bananas, turkey, cottage cheese and dried dates contain high levels of tryptophan.
It is also a precursor to serotonin – low levels of which are associated with depression and anxiety. Vitamin B6 is also involved with the synthesis of serotonin, so it is important to eat foods rich in vitamin B6 such as wholegrains (eg. oats, buckwheat & millet), shellfish (eg. prawns, lobster and mussels).
Dopamine and depression
Low levels of dopamine are linked with the incidence of depression, while increased levels make us feel good. Dopamine is synthesised from tyrosine, an amino acid found in protein foods. It requires the vitamins B12 – found in fish and dairy products, and B9 (also known as folic acid) as well as magnesium for its production.
Foods rich in tyrosine include almonds, bananas, cottage cheese, lima beans, peanuts (raw and unsalted), pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
Foods rich in folic acid include soya flour, green leafy vegetables (especially broccoli), eggs and brown rice. A good supply of magnesium can be found in sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, wheatgerm, soya beans, mackerel, swordfish and cod.
The zinc link
Many times people with anxiety or depression show signs of zinc deficiency. Post-partum depression has also been linked to zinc levels., as zinc reserves pass from mother to baby, a day or so before birth. Zinc is the basis for the baby’s growth and immune system. Zinc tests are simple to conduct and we suggest you consult a nutritionist or GP before taking any supplements.
Foods full of zinc include oysters, endive, alfalfa sprouts, seaweed, brown rice, asparagus, mushrooms, turkey and radishes.
By enjoying a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wholegrain cereals, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meat and oily fish, you can prevent and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Here are nine mood-boosting foods that you should add to your next grocery list:
Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are all high in vitamin C, which helps cope with cortisol, a hormone that is released during times of stress.
Black beans, lentils, and lima beans are all rich in magnesium, a mineral that functions to provide relaxation and calm.
3. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the ultimate comfort foods. A small square of dark chocolate is full of protein and fibre and releases endorphins and boosts serotonin levels.
Mackerel, salmon, sardines, and trout all have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can alleviate anxiety.
5. Herbal Teas
Many herbal teas, such as chamomile, have calming properties. Black, green, white and red (rooibos) teas are also rich in antioxidants. Drinking a cup of warm tea can relieve stress and lift the spirits.
6. Leafy Greens
Kale is loaded with mood-moderating magnesium and raw spinach and broccoli contain important B vitamins. These include folate, B3, B6 and B12.
7. Whole Fruits
Apples, bananas, and oranges are packed with fibre and vitamin C.
8 . Chicken and turkey
Helps to increase your intake of the important amino acid tryptophan that is used to make serotonin and the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep. Lean poultry also contains tyrosine, which is used to make the hormone adrenalin and can reduce symptoms of depression.
Calcium has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. fortified breakfast cereals are a great source, as well as prawns, sardines, tofu and cooked spinach.Good mental health is
A well balanced diet means that your body will have all the nutrients it needs for good health, including good mental health.
As with any changes in diet, it is important to introduce new foods gradually to allow your body to adjust to a new routine and ensure that you do not have any food allergies.
You will be amazed at the abundance of energy and the lifted moods these healthful foods will provide.
Remember, fuel your brain with these key nutrients to support stress and mood and you will be feeling your best in no time!