Eating Happy - How to Boost Your Mood with Food

We all know that a balanced diet benefits your physical health and helps to keep your body functioning the way it should, but what about your brain? Recent research has shown that certain foods are key in boosting brain function, helping you to think more clearly, and keeping you energised throughout the day. When we feel stressed, tired or depressed we often turn to food for comfort and while it is true that reaching for a high-sugar, a processed snack can provide us with that short-term boost, long-term the results aren’t always so great. Other factors such as eating erratically or eating too little/too much are also major contributors to poor self-esteem and low energy, so build a plan and try your best to stick to it! Filling your diet with healthy, delicious foods can benefit not only your physical health but can have incredible effects on your mental health too!.

Oily fishes such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which aid brain function and contribute to the fluidity of your brain’s cell membrane. Fatty fish such as salmon also contains two types of omega-3s — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — that are linked to lower levels of depression. It is recommended that we eat two to three portions of fatty fish per week, and because there are so many options out there, this is much easier than you might think!

Veggie/vegan? No worries! Good, healthy fats can be found in Flax and Chia seeds, walnuts, avocados and dark chocolate, to name a few.

We reach for it in-between sobs when watching Marley & Me, we devour it when we’ve been chucked. But have you ever wondered what it is about chocolate that is just so damn comforting? Well, it obviously contains sugar, which provides a quick fuel fix for our brains. When we eat it, a load of feel-good compounds are released, including caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine — which is chemically similar to cannabinoids and has been linked to improved mood. Expert opinions are mixed, but it is generally thought that a couple of small squares a day (it is pretty high in calories, after all!) can help increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation and boost brain health due to the flavonoids present that help to regulate your mood. A rich source of antioxidants and anandamide (known to some as the ‘bliss chemical), it literally has the ability to make us feel happier. So, there you have it! Science.

Probiotics are essentially live bacteria and yeasts that are EXCELLENT for your digestive system. Found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut, probiotics support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and may release serotonin. We already know that serotonin can affect our mood, sex drive, and stress response, but did you know that 90% of it comes from our gut microbiome? (this is essentially the healthy bacteria in your gut). So, more healthy bacteria = higher levels of serotonin! Try kicking your morning off with yogurt, berries, and a grating of dark chocolate! That’s a breakfast actually worth getting up for…

We already know berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but did you know there is evidence to suggest that strawberries, raspberries and blueberries appear to have similar effects to Valproic Acid, a mood-stabiliser prescribed to help regulate emotions? High in potassium and Vitamin C, blueberries also contain the antioxidant flavonoid anthocyanin, which is associated with reducing depression and inflammation. So, load up on berries for breakfast or throughout the day as a healthy snack and reap the mood-boosting benefits!

Many whole grains are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which our bodies need to produce serotonin and melatonin. As we already know, serotonin improves our mood and can relax our brains and bodies, while melatonin helps establish and maintain steady sleep cycles. Whole grains also work hard to stabilise your blood sugar and in turn, keep your mood steady! This is why they are often promoted as a great breakfast food. Whole grains also contain fibre and Vitamin B, both of which are essential for a healthy digestive system. Vitamin B in particular is believed to help reduce the risk of developing things like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So, starting your day off with a fibre-rich breakfast is the perfect way to load up on fibre, boost your body’s serotonin production and stave off those mid-morning mood crashes.

There is a lot of information out there surrounding food and mood, and it can be hard to digest (no pun intended). Hopefully this little breakdown of some of the best foods to include in your diet will guide you in the right direction. Remember to eat mindfully and take your time - no one perfects an uber-healthy lifestyle overnight! Try incorporating some of these little mood-boosters into your weekly meal plan and feel great in the knowledge that you are fueling your body with nutritious ingredients that benefit your body and mind.

If you suffer from severe depression and consistent low moods you should seek the help of a professional medical practitioner. Our advice is only a guideline.