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Did you know that the food we eat can affect the way we feel?
So it's important to get enough mystical mood boosting foods into our diets. However, often it feels like there is a never-ending stream of information about how food affects our bodies, from our heart to our waistlines. We know that we shouldn’t eat too many saturated fats, but “good fats” like those found in avocados are good for us. Chocolate is fine, but not too much and we should absolutely avoid eating lots of sugar.
But we don’t know much about how food affects one of our most vital organs. Our brain controls how we think, feel and act so of course, we need to be aware of how the food we eat affects it.
How does food affect our brains?
According to Mind (opens in new tab), the mental health charity, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure that you’re eating habits are having a positive impact on your brain.
To boost your mood with food, you should always:
- Eat regularly: Remember, breakfast is the best start to the day and instead of three big meals, maybe have five smaller ones
- Choose foods that release energy slowly: This will keep your blood sugars level
- Staying hydrated: Along with food, you should be drinking 5-8 glasses of water per day
- Focusing on your gut: Especially if we’re stressed or anxious, our gut can really affect the way that we are feeling
- Managing caffeine: As well as making you feel anxious, high caffeine food and drinks can disturb your sleep (opens in new tab) patterns
So with that in mind, what are the foods you should be eating to make sure that your brain feels fabulous?
We take a look at the best mood-boosting food you can eat...
18 mood boosting foods
1. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and packed with essential nutrients that have been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression and help give you a good night's sleep.
2. Fermented foods
Fermented foods like kafir yogurt and kombucha (opens in new tab) have made a big comeback in recent years and there's a good reason why. They not only contribute to a healthy digestion system, but also are known to boost your mood. This is because serotonin, the happiness hormone, is made in your gut - so if your gut is healthy, it can produce lots of serotonin. Healthy gut = happy brain.
Oily fish including mackerel is one of the few foods that contains vitamin D (opens in new tab), usually produced when we're exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D boosts our levels of serotonin and is one of the reasons that people tend to feel happier on sunny days.
4. Vanilla ice cream
As well as tasting good, vanilla ice-cream gives you a large dose of phosphorous which helps lift your libido. In turn, sex reduces stress and makes your body produce endorphins (opens in new tab).
This fruit contains tryptophan – a clever ingredient that the body uses to make the happiness hormone, serotonin. Bananas are also packed full of potassium which is lost when we get stressed and if that wasn’t enough, they also contain vitamin B6 which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
6. Dark chocolate
Good news! Eating chocolate makes you happy - especially chocolate that’s got over 70 per cent cocoa. Just a few pieces can cause the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels, putting you in a good mood.
Venison isn’t the most popular meat to grace our dinner tables but it's really one of the mood boosting foods, since venison is one of the healthiest ways you can increase the amount of protein in your diet. It’s low in fat and provides half our recommended daily amount of zinc, a mineral that’s key to maintaining a healthy immune system (opens in new tab) and glowing skin.
We all love a big bowl of cheesy pasta (opens in new tab). But it turns out that pasta is actually proven to lift your spirits by (you guessed it) increasing the production of serotonin. High carbohydrate meals are in fact more effective than high-protein meals at lifting your mood, and protein-high meals actually tend to make people feel more sluggish.
We all know that cheese makes us happy, but it's actually one of the mood boosting foods. But it’s often said that eating cheese before you go to bed will give you nightmares - proven wrong by a study from the British Cheese Board, who found that far from the truth, with 72 per cent of the 200 volunteers having a very good night’s sleep after eating cheese. Cheese also contains tryptophan, the mood enhancer, and calcium which is necessary to create melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.
10. Green vegetables
Leafy, green vegetables are natural antidepressants. They’re an excellent source of folic acid, which is particularly good for expectant mothers as a lack of it can cause depression. So to maximise happiness, start tucking into broccoli soup or your favourite kind of salad.
Most of us struggle to get out of bed in the morning without one cup of coffee. As well as giving us a hit of caffeine which can spark up our brains, it’s also been found to reduce depression. A 10-year study (opens in new tab) of 86,000 nurses showed that those who drank coffee had a reduced risk of suicide.
However, too much of the good stuff and you might start to feel jittery and anxious as the caffeine speeds up your heart rate.
Coffee COULD relieve a headache. Check out these other natural headache relievers...
There seems to be an ever-growing love for this fish, perhaps because it's a great mood boosting food. As well as being delicious and high in omega-3 acids, which help to protect the heart, salmon has also been proven (opens in new tab) to help reduce anxiety and depression. In one study (opens in new tab), it was even suggested that this fatty fish could help prevent age-related memory loss by at least 13 per cent.
Pomegranates have been sold as a health-booster for years! But they are actually really good for you. Did you know that eating one or drinking a glass of pomegranate juice can help to stabilise your sugar levels after you’ve eaten a high-calorie meal? That means you eliminate the risk of an energy slump (opens in new tab) after dinner, can stay motivated and get more done.
Capsaicin, a component found in chilli peppers has been shown to treat headaches and migraines. Enough to make anyone feel miserable, headaches are big killers of good moods. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology, out of 18 patients 72 per cent were found to have some relief from their headache after eating a chilli pepper. So before you reach for the paracetol, have a look in your fridge.
Spinach is absolutely packed with the nutrients that you need to stay awake and keep moving. Like magnesium, which helps you to generate energy, along with folate, which turns the food you eat into usable energy.
This leafy green is also a alkaline vegetable, which helps to neutralise your body and keep you feeling fit throughout the day.
Of course in large amounts, wine is just going to give you a headache and make you feel horrible. But a small glass - i.e. 5-15g - per day has actually been proven (opens in new tab) to help reduce depression. Red wine has also been proven to help the growth of gut bacteria and a healthy gut is vital in producing serotonin, the happiness hormone.
This low-fat poultry bird is not just a cheaper alternative to chicken in most cases. It’s actually much healthier for you, with just as much protein. But it’s almost got a third of your daily amount of phosphorus in just one portion. This is really good for building up those energy levels, to keep you energised and active throughout the day – whatever you’re doing.
18. Chicken liver pate
Pâté is a great source of protein, which helps to supply the brain with oxygen. The recommended intake of iron is 8.7mg a day for men and 14.8mg for women with pâté containing 9.9mg per 100g. Iron is great for long periods spent in one place, where you start feeling tired. (opens in new tab)
The great thing about many of these mood boosting foods is that you're likely to already have them stocked up in your cupboards or in your fridge at home. No need to step outside for a hit of happiness!