We could probably all do with a little mood boosting right now. On a positive note, we know that what we eat can have a massive bearing on how happy, sad or anxious we feel.
There is an inextricable link between gut and brain, mainly due to brain neurotransmitters, many of which are produced in the gut. Furthermore, the microbiome, which includes those friendly guys that live in your gut, also plays a role.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods to help keep you feeling happy.
Spinach is high in magnesium, nature’s natural tranquiliser, which is great for keeping our mood calm and balanced. Plus, spinach is rich in vitamin B6, needed to produce serotonin, our ‘happy hormone’.
Spinach is so versatile and can be used in dishes hot and cold. Whilst some of the vitamin content is lost through cooking, lightly steaming is the way forward. Spinach leaves are great added to a salad with some stronger flavours such as goats’ cheese, beetroot and walnuts. Alternatively, spinach, lightly steamed with garlic, makes a great vegetable side.
Chicken is high in the amino acid, tryptophan, which is needed to produce serotonin. Tryptophan is actually found in quite a number of protein-based foods but is especially high in chicken. Try to choose organic chicken, where possible.
Why not rustle up a delicious Mediterranean chicken salad? Use cooked chicken breasts or thighs with spinach leaves, shredded red cabbage and cherry tomatoes. The delicious flavour comes from the dressing which you can make with Dijon mustard, basil leaves, virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. An easy, tasty and mood-enhancing lunch.
Eggs can help raise dopamine levels, another brain neurotransmitter needed for good mood and motivation. Interestingly, dopamine levels are also increased when bright light hits the back of the eye, which is one of the reasons why so many people suffer from SAD during the darker, winter months.
Eggs make a brilliant start to the day not just because they raise dopamine levels, but they’re also high in protein. Protein is needed to keep blood sugar in good balance, which has a direct impact on mood and energy. Poached eggs on wholemeal toast with a few wilted spinach leaves is certainly a top breakfast!
Brown rice is a slow-releasing carbohydrate so it will not only help give you energy and balanced mood, it stimulates production of serotonin. We all tend to crave more starchy foods during the winter months. Maybe this is partly because the body is ‘asking’ for serotonin?
Brown rice is a staple food that can be added to many meals. It’s great with baked salmon (another mood-boosting food), with stir-fry veggies or cold as a lunch-time salad base. Whole grain foods are also high in fibre and B-vitamins helping your bowels to be more regular, which will also have a positive impact on your energy and mood.
Natural yogurt is high in tryptophan but also helps balance the friendly flora (or goood bacteria) in your digestive tract. Both factors are key to good mood so eating natural yoghurt regularly is an easy win.
Adding natural yoghurt to your cereal (homemade muesli with plenty of nuts and seeds is a good start), is an easy breakfast. It is also transportable if you like to eat breakfast on the go or when you get to work. Plus, it’s a great source of protein so blood sugar levels will start the day evenly rather than out of balance. Furthermore, it feeds all the good guys in the gut; the better shape your gut bacteria, the more serotonin you’ll be able to produce, as that’s where most of it comes from!
Enjoy trying these five easy nutrition tips to help boost your mood and put a smile on your face!
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