Good Mood Food by Helena Holdsworth
One of the most important ways to nourish your overall wellbeing is to make sure you are fuelling your body with nutrient dense foods. Research has proven that our diet is directly linked to our mood, mental clarity and energy levels - as the saying goes ‘good food, is good mood’. In this blog post, we’ll explore the essential nutrients and food groups that can help to keep us happy and healthy…
Happy Gut = Happy Mind
It’s impossible not to mention gut health when we are looking at ways to boost our mood. Serotonin is the key hormone that regulates how we feel and 95% of it is produced within the gut, which communicates back and forth with our brain via the gut-brain axis. This is why mood disorders caused by low serotonin levels are more commonly linked to individuals with gut health issues. When our gut is unhappy, our mind is unhappy.
So, how can we improve our gut health? Having a diverse diet is crucial in keeping our gut microbiome well fed. Here are the best gut loving nutrients:
- Polyphenols: Green tea, cocoa, olive oil, coffee and dark chocolate, contain the plant chemical polyphenol, which is digested by our gut bacteria keeping them nourished.
- Prebiotics: Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that are found in fibre which help to feed our gut bacteria. Whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables are great sources.
- Fermented foods: Probiotics occur naturally in foods that have undergone the fermentation process. Add kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut into your diet to improve digestion.
- Healthy fats: Avocados, nuts and oily fish such as salmon, are amazing sources of healthy fats that encourage the growth of good bacteria within your microbiome.
Diversity is also key as shown in the SMILES trial…
The SMILES trial was a randomised controlled, single blinded trial where sixty-seven people with diagnosed depression were allocated either a dietary intervention group or a befriending social support group. Across the twelve weeks, the dietary intervention involved a diverse Mediterranean diet and seven sessions with a dietitian, whilst in the befriending group participants met with a member of the research team and discussed topics they enjoyed that weren’t related to their mental health. By the end of the trial, 32% in the dietary support group were considered to be in remission compared to 8% in the social support group, highlighting how dietary improvement may be an important facilitator for mood disorders.
Tryptophan - for serotonin supply
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is essential in the process of generating serotonin.
It can be sourced from proteins such as meat, fish, tofu, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds. Furthermore, when we combine carbohydrates with tryptophan proteins, our body is able to produce an increased supply of serotonin. This is the reason why we crave carbs when we feel low.
Choline - brain food
Choline is key to acetylcholine production, which improves memory and mood. Dietary guidelines recommended 550mg of choline daily for men and 425mg for women. Incorporate larger quantities of eggs, beans, meat, wheatgerm and fish into your diet, to hit these targets.
Carbohydrates - whole v.s refined
When we consume fibre free, simple sugars, our energy levels spike and we receive a sugar rush. This is quickly followed by a crash, as our body produces insulin to bring our sugar levels down and we are left feeling sluggish. By swapping refined or simple carbohydrates for wholegrains, we are able to keep our energy levels more stable and function more efficiently, as the glucose is released at a much slower pace.
While the foods listed above are amazing ways to nourish your health, it’s important to make sure you’re listening to your body and not attaching guilt to food. There’s nothing wrong with a couple of squares of chocolate before bed if that brings you joy. It’s all about moderation, balance and understanding what makes you as a unique individual feel good!