January is often a month where people struggle with low mood, partly because of the dark days and cold and miserable weather. And that’s notwithstanding the current situation. “Blue Monday”, this year on 18th January, is also supposed to be the lowest day of the year.
However, the good news is that you can put a smile back onto your face by adding some ‘feel-good’ foods to your diet.
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top happy foods.
The perfect start to the day is porridge with your choice of milk or soaked overnight in some apple juice. Oats are loaded with mood-enhancing nutrients. Importantly, eating oats for breakfast avoids wheat-based cereals or bread, which can be troubling for many people’s digestion. That’s certainly going to disrupt mood too.
Oats are high in B-vitamins which, as well as helping with energy production, are needed to produce brain neurotransmitters responsible for mood and motivation. They are also high in the calming mineral magnesium (great for stress-reduction) and keeping your blood sugar levels in balance, thereby keeping you smiling!
One of the easiest and tastiest snacks, bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our happy hormone, serotonin. They are also high in vitamin B6, essential for the body to produce tryptophan which in turn helps to make serotonin, so it’s a win-win situation.
Whilst they’re a great snack and can also star in delicious banana bread, bananas are high in starch so are best eaten in moderation as a treat, rather than every day. Plus, their sugar release is better balanced when eaten with protein, so they partner well with mood-boosting walnuts which are high in omega-3 fats.
On the topic of omega-3s, salmon is one of the best food choices for getting some of these super-healthy fats into your diet. Omega-3s are essential for brain function, particularly getting neurotransmitters to fire correctly, so will help support your mood. Plus, they’re needed for great skin, smooth-moving joints, a healthy heart and eye health, so they provide plenty to smile about.
Salmon is really easy to include in the diet: it’s great grilled with some lemon juice and a little butter, cooked in the oven in a foil parcel with garlic, ginger and soy sauce, or added to pasta dishes. If you want a quick and healthy lunch, then look for tinned wild salmon. Wild salmon is best because they’re reared in a healthier way and contain more of the powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin (it’s what makes them pink), so you’ll also be supporting your immune system and the ageing process as well.
For tastes and memories of summer, why not bag some delicious pineapple? If you can’t find fresh, then frozen is fine because it’s usually quickly frozen after harvest locking in all the nutrients. As well as encouraging happy thoughts of holidays (which will happen later this year!), pineapples contain some tryptophan, so they’ll also help to increase serotonin levels.
Pineapples also contain a special protein called bromelain which helps with digestion but has a strong anti-inflammatory action so is great for any joint pain or muscle soreness you might be experiencing. Pineapple is delicious added to a vegetable juice for sweetness but, when eaten between meals as a snack (perhaps with some almonds), its health benefits tend to be more effective, plus it’s easier to digest.
Many people are not great lovers of fish which means they may not be getting their essential omega-3s. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of omega-3s, but also immune-boosting zinc and calming magnesium.
If you can’t face them plain, then why not very lightly roast them with some soy sauce? That way you’ll be much more likely to eat and enjoy them and sprinkle them liberally on vegetables, salads or smashed avocado on toast (a fantastic start to the day!)
So, brighten up your January – and your mood – with some great mood-boosting foods!
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