With the heat wave hitting the UK this week, sunshine always makes us feel happier and brighter. But when the sun goes in, how can we keep that summer glow and radiate happiness even when it’s gloomy? Consultant nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top 5 recommendations for mood-boosting foods.
The sunny weather always helps to put a smile on our faces! However, what we eat is also key to a happier mood. Whether it’s glorious outside or cloudy and grey, what we include in our diet can make a huge difference to how we are feeling.
Here are my five top mood-boosting foods to help keep you feeling upbeat and contented this summer.
Oily fish, and in particular, salmon, contain the essential omega 3 fatty acids. They are termed ‘essential’ because they have to be eaten in the diet – they cannot be made naturally by the body. They fulfil many important functions, one of which is the healthy production of neurotransmitters in your brain, especially dopamine. Dopamine is needed to maintain a good mood state and to keep us motivated; the more omega 3’s we have to support this, the more likely we are to feel just that little bit happier because of it.
If you can, try to eat salmon a couple of times a week; why not try a salmon nicoise salad with boiled new potatoes, lettuce, olives, green beans and hard boiled eggs – delicious!
Chocolate is a mood booster because it appears to help moderate stress levels. This will come as great news to many, particularly women! A recent study from the International Journal of Health Sciences found that 40g of chocolate eaten every day over a period of two weeks helped reduced perceived stress levels within the study group. It appears to reduce the levels of cortisol, which is our stress hormone.
Whilst there may be a physiological reason for improved mood after having eaten some chocolate, there is no doubt that it raises your feel-good endorphins. However, the real nutritional value is only found in dark chocolate, which was also used in the above study. Dark chocolate is also packed with antioxidants which keep your immune system in good order and stop the aging process to boot! Two to three squares daily is actually all that’s needed.
Spinach is bursting with folic acid, probably best known for its essential role in pregnancy in preventing neural tube defects in unborn babies. But it is also used in the production of our ‘happy hormone’ serotonin which helps to regulate mood. Serotonin is made in the gut, which is why people with digestive problems can often feel depressed in addition to their ongoing symptoms.
There is another reason why eating spinach can make you feel happier; it helps to stimulate the fat-burning protein, adiponectin and that’s enough to boost anyone’s mood! However, if spinach really isn’t for you, the good news is that folic acid is found in most green leafy vegetables. Try to include at least one portion of broccoli, kale, spinach or rocket in your diet every day to really boost your mood.
It’s delicious, packed full of healthy antioxidants and has also been found to boost mood. Various studies have been carried out on married couples who were asked to drink a glass of pomegranate juice daily for a week. They found that their mood became more positive and, even better, their sexual desire also increased. The reason for this appears to be that pomegranate stimulates the oestrogen and serotonin receptors in the body – the former being partially responsible for sex drive and the latter helping improve mood.
As well as making a delicious juice, pomegranates are great in fruit salad or on their own as a healthy, mood-boosting snack.
Oysters are a bit like marmite – you either love them or hate them! Their claim to fame is that they are a known aphrodisiac which of course, would boost one’s mood! The reason for this is that oysters are very high in the mineral zinc which is essential for healthy female egg production, as well as male sperm production.
Conversely, zinc is frequently found to be deficient in sufferers of depression; this is partly because zinc is an essential co-factor in the metabolism of the brain’s neurotransmitters that are responsible for good mood, including serotonin.
Oysters are also rich in the amino acid tyrosine which helps to enhance mental function and elevate mood. But if you’re still struggling to eat oysters, they’re great with some lemon juice and tabasco!
So, come rain or shine, include some mood foods in your diet every day and keep your mood on the sunny side of the street.
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 Al Scinni A, Latif R. Effects of chocolate intake on Perennial Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study. Int J Health Sci 2014 Oct 8(4): 393-401.