When you’re feeling low it can be tempting to turn to sugary food to help lift your mood. But in reality, those foods have a short-lived feel good effect and can leave you feeling worse in the long run. Instead, try making informed choices about the food you consume and implement them into your everyday diet.
The relationship between nutrition and mental health has become a hot topic in the wake of the Covid pandemic and the impact it’s had on everyone’s mental wellbeing. Research shows a link between certain food groups, brain health and the presence of mood disorders.
However, your mood can be impacted by many factors in your life – from stress, poor sleep and even genetics. This makes it difficult to measure the full impact of healthy food on your mood, but research suggests that a healthier diet means a healthier brain, which alleviates certain mood disorders.
Below are 9 healthy foods that can lead to a healthier brain.
Oats are a great way to start your day as they slowly release sugar into your bloodstream to keep you energised for a long time.
Oats achieve this by being very high in fibre. This slows the digestion of the carbohydrates in oats allowing for a gradual release of sugar and stable energy levels throughout the day. A high fibre breakfast can have a positive impact on your mood as stable sugar levels have been linked to controlling mood swings.
Coffee is a widely popular drink and stimulant that makes you feel energised. Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that causes drowsiness. This can boost your mood by making you feel more alert, sharp and productive.
But the benefits don’t stop there, coffee increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain which are both neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood.
A small study of 72 people found that both caffeinated and decaf coffee significantly improved mood compared to those provided with a placebo. This suggest that coffee contains many other compounds that influence mood, although more research is needed.
3. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in healthy fats, fibre and protein. They also contain tryptophan which is an amino acid that produces serotonin and stabilises your mood. Nuts can also help with zinc deficiency which is a vital mineral for healthy brain function.
A long-term study reported a link between moderate nut consumption with a 23% decrease in the risk of depression. This suggests that nuts and seeds are an important food group for maintaining your brain health.
A diet rich in antioxidants has been linked to lower levels of inflammation which has been associated with depression.
Berries contain a variety of antioxidants which help to prevent an imbalance of harmful compounds in your body. They’re also particularly high in anthocyanins which have been associated with preventing symptoms of depression.
Fresh berries can be expensive so if you’re struggling to have them regularly in your diet try buying frozen instead. Make sure to purchase berries that are frozen at their peak so that you’re still getting the same number of antioxidants as you would from fresh fruit.
Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including brain cells. They improve the structure of neurons which are necessary for all function within the body.
A 2017 study found that high levels of omega-3s increased blood flow in the brain and resulted in a greater ability to process information. This suggests that eating oily fish can do wonders for your brain function.
Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include salmon, tuna and sardines. However, you can also find omega-3s in soybeans, nuts, and seeds if eating fish isn’t an option for you.
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Bananas have been reported to alleviate the symptoms of depression. This may be because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into mood-lifting serotonin.
Bananas also contain vitamin B6, which has been shown to even out your mood naturally by helping synthesize the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin.
Bananas are also a great source of prebiotics which encourage and feed healthy bacteria in your gut. This is important because a rich gut microbiome has been associated with lower rates of mood disorders. To reap the full benefits of this, make sure to eat your bananas while the peels are still green.
7. Fermented foods
To make sure you have a rich microbiome in your gut you should consume fermented foods, like yogurt and kombucha. The fermentation process allows live bacteria to thrive in foods that are then able to convert sugars into alcohol and acids.
These live bacteria are called probiotics and they support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
However, not all fermented foods are sources of probiotics, for example beer isn’t due to the acid from the hops that kills any beneficial bacteria.
Probiotics are important for boosting your mood as up to 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced by your gut microbiome. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises your mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.
8. Dark chocolate
Similar to coffee, dark chocolate contains a stimulant, called theobromine, that can make you feel alert and positively impact your mood.
It also contains tryptophan the amino acid that your brain uses to produce serotonin. The darker the chocolate the more serotonin is produced and the more your mood will be boosted.
Dark chocolate also contains several antioxidants including polyphenols which are known to reduce anxiety and depression.
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9. Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are high in fibre, plant-based protein and healthy nutrients. They’re an excellent source of B vitamins, which help improve your mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which are all vital for regulating mood.
B vitamins are also important for nerve signalling, which allows for proper communication between your nerve cells. This means that including B vitamins in your diet is highly important. Vitamin deficiencies, especially in B12, can lead to depression and other serious complications such as nerve damage. Eating beans and lentils is a good way of avoiding this.
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For more advice on how to stay healthy and live a better lifestyle, contact us at Ceed here.