We all have our go-to feel-good foods, but what if we told you there was actually evidence that certain foods can truly improve your mood? In fact, these certain foods don’t just make you feel good, but could help you manage and even prevent mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Mental health is everyone’s issue and there is growing evidence that the quality of your diet is linked to your mental health.
Sugary and fatty foods may boost your mood initially, but relying on a diet packed with these foods will leave you feeling lethargic, foggy and flat in the long run. The science behind the mood-food connection is evolving and we now know that we can select foods that can power the brain and help regulate your mood in the long term. Time to rethink your go-to feel-good food list and start adding foods that are rich in these brain-healthy nutrients to your plate.
1. Omega-3 Fats
Did you know that your brain is largely made up of fat? In fact, it’s 60% fat! The type of fat we consume can really impact your brain’s ability to function, including how it regulates your mood. Omega-3 fats help to reduce inflammation in your brain which can promote the release of serotonin, a brain chemical often known as the “happy hormone” and is important for your emotional wellbeing. The human body is unable to produce omega-3 fats, which means we need to rely on food sources, and in some cases supplements, for a daily dose. Studies have shown that individuals suffering from depression tend to have lower amounts of omega-3 fats in their diet. The simplest way that you can include omega-3s in your diet is to aim for at least 2 serves of oily fish a week. Think canned or fresh salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines. Other good sources of omega-3 fats include walnuts, eggs, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
2. Good quality carbohydrates
The brain is a picky eater and demands a constant supply of good quality carbohydrates to function optimally. Skipping meals or not having enough carbs can cause your blood sugar levels to drop, which affects brain function and results in fatigue and irritability. Similarly, feasting on poor quality carbs such as processed baked treats (think biscuits, cakes and lollies), soft drink and white breads can lead to a sugar crash after the temporary energy buzz. On the other hand, good quality carbohydrates help to steady your blood sugars, and therefore balances out your energy levels and mood. These types of preferable carbohydrates are in foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits, starchy vegetables and dairy.
3. Prebiotics and Probiotics
The gut is often referred to as our second brain. Have you ever had a gut feeling about something? When you feel nervous or anxious, you might also experience butterflies in your stomach. These are examples of the gut-brain connections that scientific research is uncovering. Your gut is also home to both good and bad bacteria and tweaking their balance can help to improve your mood and mental wellbeing.
Probiotics are the good type of bacteria that are naturally found in your gut and in your food. They improve your health by reducing the number of harmful bacteria that may survive in your gut. The main, easiest source of probiotics is yoghurt but there are other probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha and authentic sourdough bread.
Prebiotics are a type of fibre and food source for good bacteria to thrive, flourish and do their job. Sources of prebiotics include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. By feeding your gut bacteria the right foods, you’re also helping your gut to absorb the essential vitamins and minerals from your food more efficiently. Happy gut bacteria mean a happy boost to your immunity and mood!
Let’s tie it all in with our top mood-boosting tips:
- Enjoy more omega 3 fats – aim for 2 serves of oily fish a week
- Don’t banish carbs – just choose smart ones
- Don’t skip meals
- Enjoy your alcohol and caffeine In moderation
- Get plenty of regular exercise – the endorphins will do wonders for your mood as well!
Keynote Dietitian Speaker
The Biting Truth’s team of qualified dietitians can visit your office and hold an interactive seminar on ‘Mood & Food’. To raise awareness for Mental Health Awareness Month, we are offering a special discount during October and November. Please Contact Us for more information.
This post was written by The Biting Truth team, Monique Heller and Michelle Hsu.