Many of us have struggled to find good cheer and happiness over the last few months for obvious reasons. However, Christmas is fast approaching which generally puts a smile on our faces.
What you eat over this festive season can have a marked and positive effect on your mood.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five favourite festive mood-enhancing foods.
The good old Christmas Turkey can really help our mood and motivation. This is because it’s rich in tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce serotonin, one of our key happy hormones. However, it requires some nutrient partners, also called co-factors, in order to get to where it’s needed to do its work. This means eating plenty of foods containing vitamin C.
Thankfully, most fruits and vegetables are full of vitamin C, so make sure you’re eating at least the recommended five portions a day or even more! Additionally, zinc (rich in seafood and whole grains) and vitamin B6 (bananas are a great source), also work closely with tryptophan.
Hopefully looking at the beautifully roasted turkey on your Christmas table will bring a smile to your face for many reasons and you can continue to enjoy the leftovers during the festive period.
Mackerel is a sometimes-forgotten white fish but one that’s incredibly flavoursome. One of its many claims to fame is that it’s packed with the essential omega-3 fats, so often lacking in the typical western diet. We know from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) that a large percentage of the population are lacking in omega-3s which might in part explain why low mood is so prevalent. Omega-3s are essential for improved brain neurotransmitter reception plus production of serotonin – our happy hormone.
Mackerel is delicious simply baked as a pre-Christmas meal. However, why not enjoy some mackerel pate as a starter for the main event? It can be prepared the day before and it’s super easy to make. Enjoy!
At their seasonal best right now, oysters are often served up over Christmas. They’ll certainly bring some cheer to the table partly down to the fact they’re packed with the mineral zinc. Zinc is essential for the production of serotonin, a lack of which is often implicated in cases of depression.
Additionally, oysters are high in vitamin B12 which plays a key role in keeping the nervous system on the straight and narrow, and helping you feel generally more balanced. Most people love oysters served with loads of lemon juice or for a spicey twist, with some chilli sauce. They never disappoint however they’re eaten.
No Christmas would be complete for most people without some chocolate heaven! However, the good news is that chocolate really can make us feel happier. Chemicals in dark chocolate work on feel-good endorphins in the body. This is turn helps raise levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that encourages our feel-good factor and positive mood.
Dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa or more) also contains tryptophan. Even better, if you’ve wondered why it’s called the ‘food of love’ it contains a compound called theobromine, thought to be a mild aphrodisiac. Do we need any more convincing of why chocolate has to be on the Christmas menu?
It’s all about roots right now to keep you happy and grounded! And it’s no coincidence that root vegetables are in season during the winter months; the body needs warming, starchy and delicious foods (especially root vegetables) to put a smile on our faces.
Thankfully, parsnips are high on the shopping list when it comes to planning the Christmas Day menu. However, parsnips are also the main event in a tasty Spicy Parsnip Soup that is great for Boxing Day or the day after. Pull together some onions, cumin, ginger, garam masala and red chilli plus some double cream (also high in tryptophan) alongside the parsnips, and you’ve cooked up a wonderful soup that makes a great starter or lunchtime favourite.
So, bring some extra happiness to your table this Christmas and enjoy the nutritional and mood benefits.
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