Do you get sugar cravings or clouded by brain fog mid-afternoon? Or do you get “hangry” if it’s been a little longer than normal between meals?
When you’re experiencing any of these emotions or you’re feeling stressed or down, it may be tempting (or habit) to reach for unhealthy, junk food items like chocolate biscuits, the jar of Nutella or cookie dough ice cream. However, in reality, these high calorie, often sugary foods are very unlikely to improve your spirits nor help keep bad moods at bay. In fact, they often have negative consequences of their own, for example, a blood glucose spike followed by a crash or increasing low mood and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Researchers still have much to learn about the science of how our diet influences our moods. While we don’t yet have the whole story, we certainly have some clues and know what foods can help to stabilize and lift moods and general health and well-being.
Your body and brain are constantly on duty running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And just like a car, your body and brain will perform better with premium fuel. Therefore, eating clean, wholesome “real” food rather than processed and refined food (with all of the added sugars, salt and fats) is a good place to start. Nutritious foods full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will help to nourish your brain and maintain good gut health.
A healthy diet doesn’t need to be hard work or a chore. It should be a life-long habit. Keeping convenient, healthy foods on hand can make it easier to make better food choices every day, which ultimately may help improve your mood, energy levels and motivation. Here are some healthy good mood food options that you might like to try next time you find yourself reaching for a packet of crisps or a piece of cake and want to boost and improve your mood:
- Oily fish
Oily fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (the good stuff) and may help lower your risk of depression.
- Dark chocolate
Rich in mood-boosting compounds that can increase the feel-good chemicals in your brain. The darker the better.
- Fermented foods
Think kombucha, kefir, yoghurt and kimchi. Probiotics produced by live bacteria during fermentation can result in improved gut health, increased levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin and improved mood.
Full of vitamin B6 which helps your body produce dopamine and serotonin, bananas can help turn a frown upside down.
Full of fibre and slow to digest, oats can stabilise blood glucose levels and mood fluctuations.
Bursting with antioxidants and phenolic compounds, berries can help you feel merry.
- Nuts and seeds
High in protein, healthy fats and fibre, nuts and seeds are also great sources of zinc and selenium – both minerals that may help brain function and mood, as well as lowering your risk of depression.
Brimming with caffeine and other compounds which help release mood-boosting dopamine, coffee can lift your mood, increase alertness and improve attention.
- Beans and lentils
Another great source of protein and fibre, beans and lentils are packed full mood-boosting nutrients including the B vitamins, magnesium, iron and zinc – all which can improve mood and energy levels.
- Oily fish