5 Mood Boosting Foods to Improve Mental Health
You’ve heard what you eat can affect how you feel, but have you ever wondered why? Find out how food can affect your mood and which foods may help you to improve your mental health.
Does Food Affect Mental Health?
Mental health can be influenced by many different factors such as genetics, environment and lifestyle as well as the food that you eat. Nutrients like B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids and minerals like zinc and magnesium are vital for healthy brain function whilst certain amino acids assist our bodies in producing the feel good chemical serotonin. A deficiency in any of these foods can cause a decreased mood and influence mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Certain eating habits like consuming lots of processed foods can negatively impact your mental health as they are often low in these essential nutrients and have a high sugar content which can contribute to a low mood, decreased energy levels and a lack of concentration. On the other hand, eating a well balanced, nutritious diet is always a good place to start when looking at improving your overall mood and mental health.
5 Mood Boosting Vegan Foods
So how can you get these important vitamins, minerals and amino acids into your diet? By eating a diverse, healthy diet you can help promote the function and health of your brain. Research shows that specific foods including kimchi, matcha, brazil nuts, dark leafy greens and even dark chocolate, among many others, are rich in mood-boosting properties and may help keep low moods at bay.
So just why are they so good for our mood?
Brazil nuts are one of the richest dietary sources of Selenium, an essential mineral that can have a big impact on your mood. Selenium can also be found in our Daily Multi-Vitamin.
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The Vegan Society suggests that two Brazil nuts a day may meet your requirements, although the Selenium content in the nuts can vary as it depends on the selenium levels in the soil that the plant grows in. Some studies have found that people with low levels of Selenium are more likely to feel low, and a low intake can lead to negative mood states, including depression.
The opposite is found when Selenium intake is increased - people tend to experience improved mood.
We recommend you keep brazil nuts handy for a tasty afternoon snack but only eat a few each day - too high levels of Selenium can cause dizziness, rashes and a metallic taste in your mouth.
This nutritious Japanese green tea powder contains a unique amino-acid called Theanine, which is responsible for producing dopamine and serotonin, the two chemicals that naturally improve your mood, memory and improve alertness.
Theanine is also considered to increase alpha waves in the brain which help calm your brain function and promote a sense of relaxation.
If you haven’t tried matcha before, try adding 'matcha tea' to your pancake batter, mix it in your chia pudding, or add it to your smoothie or latte.
Kimchi is a Korean dish made from fermented veggies that usually includes green onions, Chinese cabbage and radish, ginger and salt.
Kimchi is rich in multiple nutrients and contains probiotics - live bacteria that benefit our gut health. Studies have linked a healthy composition of gut bacteria with positive effects on mood, which is due to the connection between the gut and the brain, known as the 'gut-brain axis'.
A healthy gut produces over 90% of our serotonin so it's crucial to keep our gut microflora thriving with the help of probiotics. Reach for foods like kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut for your next probiotic fix.
Dark Leafy Greens
Spinach, chard and other leafy greens contain the mood moderating, super-hero mineral Magnesium.
Those of us who get more Magnesium in our diet tend to be happier as Magnesium stimulates receptors of a calming hormone called GABA, and inhibits the stress hormone cortisol, thereby reducing feelings of anxiety and worry.To help you reach your daily Magnesium requirements, load up on greens, avocados, legumes, whole grains, dark chocolate or simply bridge nutritional gaps with a Magnesium supplement.
Unlike milk chocolate, which contains added sugar and milk, dark chocolate contains some powerful compounds associated with the feel-good chemicals in the brain.
They include tryptophan, an amino acid that assists our body in producing serotonin, a well-known mood lifter; phenylethylamine, a compound chemical which stimulates the pleasure centres in the brain to boost endorphins, which are our happy hormones; and anandamide, a fatty acid neurotransmitter, often known as a bliss chemical.
Thanks to these compounds, dark chocolate really can be a delicious way to help you relax and boost your mood!
In summary, eating a balanced, healthy diet alongside an active lifestyle can help to improve your mood and mental health. By eating foods that are rich in the nutrients essential for proper brain function and amino acids that boost feel-good endorphins, you can improve your mood naturally. So why not give these foods a try and see how you feel?
Written by Riya Lakhani, ANutr
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