It’s that time of year again when we all tend to feel low in mood and generally lack-lustre. Grey skies and post-Christmas blues all contribute to these feelings. However, all is not lost!
There is an unequivocal link between what we put into our body nutritionally and how we feel and there are some important nutrients that can contribute to your mood.
This Blue Monday Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top mood boosting nutrients and natural herbs, to help put a smile back on your face.
We might not want to see the word ‘fat’ in January but, trust me, these are the good ones! The omega-3 essential fats are part of the brain’s cellular make up and are essential for mental wellbeing.
If you’re following ‘Veganuary’ or are already vegan, then you might want to add at least a tablespoon full of ground flaxseeds to your morning cereal as they are a very rich source of omega-3s. However, if you can eat fish, especially the oily kind, then omega-3s from these sources tends to be better absorbed by the body. As an example, wild salmon at least three times a week is recommended for you to notice an improvement in mood.
As with all the busy family of B-vitamins, Vitamin B6 fulfils many key functions within the body. As well as helping with hormonal balance, thereby improving mood, vitamin B6 is needed to produce serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone.
B-vitamins are water-soluble so need to be eaten really regularly. Food which is high in vitamin B6 includes fish, liver, bananas, starchy vegetables, and other non-citrus fruits. Why not cook a delicious root vegetable casserole including sweet potatoes, onions, parsnips, white potatoes, and broccoli. Add some vegetable stock, coriander and serve with cheddar cheese on the top. Root vegetables are all in season currently and this dish is certainly going to put a smile on your face.
If you’re vegan or just starting Veganuary, then do take particular note of vitamin B12. It’s only really found in animal produce and is essential for the production of serotonin.
Interestingly, some vitamin B12 can be produced in the gut and fermented foods may encourage this process. Foods such as tempeh and tofu (great in a delicious Thai curry or stir-fry), miso soup and sauerkraut are your friends in this respect and will also provide plenty of other health benefits. However if you follow a vegan diet, a B12 supplement is recommended.
Known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s produced on the skin in the presence of sunlight, vitamin D is deficient in the UK population especially during the winter months. As well as being essential for healthy bones, teeth, muscles and immunity, research has also found it be essential for mood. So, there’s certainly a physiological reason why we often feel low during January.
Whilst you can get some vitamin D from a few foods, namely oily fish, milk, and mushrooms, it’s not nearly sufficient for the body’s needs. Therefore, it’s important to supplement with vitamin D (at least 10 micrograms daily) if you want to feel brighter.
The herb ashwagandha is known as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb. This means it helps the body better cope with stress and improves energy levels. However, this effect also helps improve mood (it’s often recommended for people suffering from depression), and generally encourages people to feel more balanced. It’s found only in supplement form.
However, it’s also worth noting that if you’re feeling low, it’s generally not just one food or herb that makes all the difference: it’s generally a cumulative effect. Nutrition also needs to be combined with lifestyle changes; why not write down a list of things that make you happy and things that you are grateful for. Even if it’s only having clean sheets on the bed more often, small changes can have big effect.
So, help your mood naturally by including these nutrients more frequently into your diet.
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