We all know a healthy diet is good for us, and while some foods can make us feel a little sluggish (aka, too much pizza), there are plenty of mood-boosting foods around.
While you may not scoff down a dish with the hope it’ll make you laugh, without realising we choose food that makes us feel cozy and content. Or totally refreshed.
In winter, we naturally opt for soups, stews and homely-foods. These keep us feeling warm and content. While fresh fruit or iced lemonade are kept for a hot summer’s day, keeping us refreshed and rejuvenated.
The thing is, all of these foods release certain brain chemicals, giving us those feelings of excitement and happiness.
But what foods do just that? Let’s take a look at some mood boosting foods to get you started.
Fruits and vegetables
When your parents told you to eat your 5-a day, they weren’t wrong! Fruit and veg are packed with B vitamins.
Studies have shown B vitamins encourage the production of brain chemicals, that affect mood.
You can find B2 in foods such as spinach and mushrooms, while B3 is in avocados, B6 in bananas and B9 in broccoli.
B12 in particular is required for the production of serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. So get filling your diet with plenty of green vegetables!
These lanky green stalks pack a powerful punch! They are often a go-to for plant-based dieters, as an incredible source of tryptophan – which increases serotonin levels.
Serotonin is responsible for regulating brain function – including mood. As well as appetite, sleep and memory. So if like me, you’re often a little forgetful, you might need to pack some asparagus into your diet!
When your serotonin levels are low, it can cause feelings of anxiety, depression or quite simply, bad moods. So when you’re not feeling yourself, get grilling, steaming or sautéing some asparagus!
Commonly used in hair masks and skin products, coconut oil is not only great for your skin and hair – but your mood too. Plus, as an MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides), it provides a strong source of energy that is utilised immediately – avoiding being stored as fat.
Many of us already use coconut oil during cooking, but did you know that the natural scent of coconut oil triggers a “fight or flight” response in stressful situations?
So whether you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen or looking to get your hair super-soft, get that scent flowing!
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are super important as part of a balanced diet. Our bodies don’t make these fatty acids on their own, so we need to source them from food.
Some great sources of omega-3 are sardines, salmon, tuna and shrimp. All of which help to raise those serotonin levels we mentioned earlier. As well as increasing the happy brain chemical, omega-3s also helps the brain release dopamine.
But what’s dopamine? Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body makes it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. It is released in times of excitement or pleasure (hello orgasms!).
Whether we’re happy or sad, plenty of us turn to chocolate! But did you know that dark chocolate in particular has mood-boosting capabilities? Of course, it’s got to be the good stuff, so aim for at least 70% cacao.
We touched upon tryptophan earlier – with dark chocolate being a great source of this essential amino acid. Plus, this magical treat increases circulation to the brain, making you more alert, improving reaction time and problem-solving. Who knew!
Some even say that dark chocolate increases arousal in women… But I’ll leave you with that one to explore on your own!
Green tea or coffee
Plenty of us kickstart our mornings with a cup of coffee, so it comes as no surprise that caffeine helps us feel alert.
But when you’re feeling sluggish or lacking in motivation, sipping some green tea can benefit your mood and your mind! Green tea actually has plenty of health benefits, due to its antioxidants. Both green tea and black coffee will give you a boost and kickstart your good mood.
Be careful with the caffeine, however, as it can sometimes cause a “crashing” effect. If you’re a lover of energy drinks, you’ll be familiar with the after-crash of caffeine. Having a coffee with your breakfast is ideal to avoid the crash – plus, the extra calories will keep that spring in your step after the caffeine has worn off.
Quinoa is a wonderful food to include in your healthy diet, as a complex carbohydrate and complete protein.
By keeping your blood sugar levels in check, it’ll help you avoid those dips which often cause moodiness, low energy and irritability. So if you’re frequently feeling hangry, quinoa can help. Plus, it’s also gluten free!
We don’t expect you to eat it on its own, however. Pair your quinoa with plenty of vegetables for an extra mood-boost.
We all love a carb, right? They increase our mood and feelings of well-being, especially during the colder months of the year. Toast and jam is a popular go-to with your tea or coffee as an afternoon snack, or with your eggs in the morning.
Many of us tend to skip breakfast, but it’s an important start to your day – and your morning mood! A bowl of oats can be super-filling and serve you in good stead for the rest of the day.
Don’t forget, there are plenty of slow-digesting foods around! Try sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats and whole grain pasta – all of which will help you feel fuller for longer.