What we eat and drink has a much larger impact on our mental health than people initially realise. In lieu of National Suicide Prevention Week last week, I wanted to centre today’s blog post on a selection of foods that have been proven to boost your mood and improve your overall mental wellbeing.
Along with a myriad of other benefits, food replenishes our energy levels, boosts our immune system and is an essential source of the proteins and nutrients required for normal bodily function - all of which promote mental, as well as physical, wellbeing.
Read on to find out what additions you can make to your diet that will nurture a healthier and happier mind set.
When I say brain food, I am referring specifically to the chemical components of certain foods that are essential for the maintenance of normal and healthy brain function. It therefore goes without saying that a lack or imbalance of these foods, and their nutritious components, can be detrimental to your mental wellbeing. Below I’ve pinpointed 3 elements which are pivotal to our mental wellbeing, and have provided but a few of the many foods that will help replenish their levels in your body.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is essential for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the ‘happy chemical’ because of its role in regulating mood, social behaviour, appetite, sleep… if it feels good, it’s more often than not serotonin. Whilst it is much more complex than a cause and effect relationship, researchers have found direct connections with serotonin deficiency and depression, anxiety and increased aggression.
Tryptophan is an essential component in our body’s chemistry, yet humans are unable to produce it naturally. We must therefore look to our diet for a natural way of replenishing our stores. Foods that contain protein are most likely to contain tryptophan. Whilst meat is the most obvious source of protein, there are also many vegetarian/vegan alternatives. Here is a list of foods which promote the production of serotonin:
- Cottage cheese
- Dark chocolate
Your best chance at achieving a serotonin boost without using supplements is to eat them often, with a serving of healthy carbohydrates, like rice, oatmeal, or whole-grain bread – carbs indirectly promote the brains absorption of tryptophan.
Omega-3’s are fatty acids responsible for the maintenance of membranes in our brains and bodies. They are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, preserving cell membrane health and facilitating communication between brain cells. Omega-3's are vital for normal brain function and development. Low levels of omega-3's may accelerate brain ageing and contribute to deterioration of brain function and mental wellbeing.
The most common source of Omega-3 is, of course, fish; specifically oily fish, such as:
There are also many vegetarian and vegan sources of Omega-3, such as:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
The easiest ways to incorporate seeds and nuts into your diet is by sprinkling them on a salad, or even just choosing seeded bread.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant and useful minerals in the human body. It is believed to affect the hypothalamus, which regulates the glands responsible for the stress response. It acts as nervous system relaxant that subsequently alleviates feelings of fear, irritability and restlessness. Magnesium is a healthy, natural and easy way of creating calmness, making it a useful combatant to anxiety.
Foods High in Magnesium:
· Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale.
· Dark chocolate (there are ways to enjoy it guilt free!)
· Whole grains
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It is important to note here that there is no magic meal which will instantly improve your mood; choice foods must be eaten in harmony with other healthy behaviours in order to feel beneficial effects. For instance, ensuring you’re eating consistently throughout the day to maintain a constant blood sugar, and ensuring you have a regulated sleeping pattern are important factors in leading a healthier lifestyle.
If you are interested in consulting a nutritional therapist or simply in nutritional therapy in general, then book yourself in for a free 30 minute discovery call today. We can have a chat about your requirements, goals and preferences, and then discuss the best way to achieve a healthier, happier you.