Can eating certain foods really help keep bad moods at bay? Researchers have shown our diet can play a significant role in how we feel emotionally.
Basically, certain foods and nutrients may help our brain to make chemicals that can positively impact our mood, attention and focus. And that’s vital, especially in midlife when many of us may experience emotional highs and lows mostly because of hormonal swings and other stressors.
This is actually good news – explains honorary research fellow Dr Joseph Firth-. Eating more nutrient-dense meals, which are high in fibre and vegetables, while cutting back on fast foods and refined sugars, appears to be sufficient for avoiding the potentially negative psychological effects of a ‘junk food’ diet.
You may wonder how can the food that goes into our gut affect our mood? Well, that’s easily explained: 90% of the serotonin receptors are found in the stomach. In other words, what goes there, communicates with the brain. So, next time instead of reaching out for the usual sugary comfort foods, opt for a better, healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition expert Dee Momi at MINT Wellbeing shares with us 5 plant-based ingredients to bring to the table that can improve our overall well-being.
Did you know that black beans are a low glycemic food? Rich in magnesium and Vitamin B, they release energy slowly to keep blood sugar levels stable, limiting sweet food cravings and stabilising mood. Add black beans to salads and wraps, or use them as a base for plant burgers or even your next lasagna. Beans are also good sources of tryptophan, which the body uses to make serotonin.
High cocoa content and flavonoids (antioxidants) in dark chocolate contribute to its mood-boosting qualities as it reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Indulging in dark chocolate also increases the happy hormones serotonin and endorphin.
Yes, a chocolate bar can really help make your day brighter. However, when shopping for your mood-boosting chocolate, get the darkest one you can find, as this will have the least sugar and the most cocoa mass.
High in amino acid tryptophan which is converted to serotonin in the body, pumpkin seeds can provide great benefits for reducing stress/anxiety and improving spirits. Toss a handful into your salad, blend them into your smoothie or mix them in with your oatmeal or granola for some added crunchiness!
Bananas are an easy way to increase your fibre intake – which is good news for your gut, as it helps feed the bacteria that keep your immune system happy. They are also rich in tryptophan, which promotes feelings of happiness and calm, so can be consumed 1-2 hours before bed to help you with falling asleep.
A great source of healthy sugar, the prebiotics found in them are associated with lowering the risk of mood disorders, too.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are rich in B vitamins which play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. In particular, folate deficiency is often linked to depression, so amping up your intake of greens can help improve your feelings – add some spinach, kale, and chard to your basket.
Finally, whatever mood-boosting ingredients you’ll choose to stock your pantry with, always remember that eating the right foods is only part of the solution to preventing or treating depression. There are other ways like exercising, having the right coping mechanism, receiving support from your loved ones, as well as reaching out to a good therapist.