In these unusual and tough times everyone is navigating it as best they can. Taking care of yourself both mentally and physically is important and can help one adapt to the constantly changing environment. Staying close and connected to your support networks, getting outside in the sun, doing activities you enjoy and eating well are all great ways to keep a positive mindset.
Food and nutrition can soothe the soul. Ever heard of the term ‘comfort food’. It can be delicious, it can bring us joy, it can feel like home, it can trigger memories. Sometimes you don’t even have to eat the food, simply smelling it is enough to have you salivating and feeling good.
However on an even deeper level, there are particular nutrients in some foods which have been shown to support positive mood and mindset. I am sure some of you have seen the new ad on TV saying things like ‘eat more fruit, veg, nuts and grain, it’s the good mood food’. It is true, the foods we eat can have an effect on how we feel. And it is as simple as that. Eating well, from all 5 food groups and getting a wide variety of fruits and veg have been shown to support those with depression and decrease depressive symptoms (Jacka F.N. et al 2018).
Here are 6 examples of how food and its nutrition can support positive mood and mindset:
Salmon – omega 3
Omega 3 is a type of unsaturated fat found commonly in fatty fish and seeds like chia and flax. The two most common types are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and have been linked to lower levels of depression or depressive symptoms.
Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha – probiotics
A great source of beneficial bacteria these fermented foods allow the good bugs to thrive and in turn become part of our guts microbiome (microbiota). With the majority of our body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, appetite, stress response and more) produced in the gut, supporting your gut bugs and having a healthy microbiome may support effective serotonin production. Furthermore, new research is starting to further understand the link between the gut and the brain (more is and needs to be done) however it is suggested a good gut biome is vital for supporting good mental health.
Tea – theanine
Theanine is an amino acid found in tea, in higher amount in green than black, theanine is suggested to support mental function and provide a calming effect (which I feel is a combination of the process of drinking a warm tea and the theanine).
Dark choc – tryptophan and feels of eating/ endorphins
Chocolate, I don’t think I need to explain this one. I am sure everyone knows chocolate is commonly known to make people feel good (not to mention a common aphrodisiac when combined with strawberries). However, did you know dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content the better) is where high amounts of tryptophan are found. Tryptophan is an amino acid which then gets converted to serotonin. Combined with endorphins which are released when the chocolate hits your tongue, there is no wonder it makes everyone feel good.
Whole grains and prebiotics
Wholemeal, whole-grains, nuts, seeds, legume and beans. Fibre Fibre Fibre. It’s as simple as that. Packed with dietary fibre to keep you regular and pre-biotic fibre to feed your gut bugs these foods are so important to support a healthy gut biome and in turn support mental health and mood.
Banana – B6
As they say don’t have a no no have a na na. A great snack option full of fibre, slow releasing energy as well as vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps support the production of both serotonin and dopamine and therefore suggested to support good mood.
Jacka, F.N., O’Neil, A., Itsiopoulos, C. et al. The SMILES trial: an important first step. BMC Med 16, 237 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-018-1228-y