Given our current circumstances in the Covid-19 lockdown, I think that most of us are feeling a little blue. I have researched a few tips as to how we can improve our mood through good food. Yes, there is science to show that dietary changes can bring about changes in our brain structure which can lead to altered mood.
The following eight suggestions could improve your mood, and offer other health benefits too:
- Choose the healthy carbohydrates:
Carbohydrates boost our levels of tryptophan which in turn increases the production of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, the mood regulating chemical, is made from tryptophan with some help from the B vitamins. The greater the production of serotonin, the better the mood. Other foods that boost serotonin production include fish and vitamin D. Healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, legumes, sweet potato, and brown rice.
- Eat more Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Researchers have found that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may help protect against depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, flaxseed and walnuts. Two servings of fatty fish per week will you to meet your omega-3 requirements and improve brain health.
- Eat a Balanced Breakfast Daily:
Research has shown that by eating breakfast daily you can improve your mood; increase your energy levels throughout the day; feel calmer and enhance your memory. A good breakfast should contain lots of fibre, some lean protein, good fats and whole-grain carbohydrates. Try having a bowl of oats with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, a handful of nuts and a half a cup of blueberries.
- Move to a Mediterranean Diet:
The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrains, nuts, olive oil and fish- all of which are important sources of nutrients linked to depression. Folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies are linked to depression. The Mediterranean diet, however, incorporates folate and B-12-rich foods. These include the dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins such as fish and low-fat dairy.
- Get Enough Vitamin D:
Vitamin D increases the level of serotonin in the brain. Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Try and spend some time outdoors in the sunshine daily. Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish and eggs.
- Select Selenium-Rich Foods:
A few studies have shown an association between low selenium intakes and low moods. Foods rich in selenium include nuts (especially Brazil nuts), seeds, seafood, lean meat, wholegrains, legumes and low-fat dairy products.
- Go Easy on Caffeine:
If you are caffeine-sensitive, caffeine could keep you awake at night, and this could affect your mood the next day. Studies have shown that caffeine may exacerbate depression. Try limiting or eliminating caffeine for a month and see if your mood improves.
- Keep Exercising and Lose Weight Slowly:
Depression is associated with lower amounts of moderate to vigorous exercise. Slow weight-loss can improve mood whereas restrictive diets can lead to irritability.
The answer: aim to lose weight slowly by following a balanced Mediterranean-style diet and include 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.