If you sometimes indulge in sweets when stressed or upset, you know how immediately satisfying they can be. But all too often, they result in a quick blood sugar crash and irritability.
Just as some foods can have a negative effect on how you feel, some foods can have the complete opposite effect and lift your mood on a dull dreary February day, even if the sun is not shining.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
I see it in my clinics all the time, that omega-3 fatty acids have a vital role to play in brain function. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids have been linked for a number of years now to mental health and anxiety issues.
To increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, consume foods such as:
- Wild Alaskan salmon
- Other oily fish
- Flax and chia seeds
- Canola oil
- Purslane (herb)
In addition to whole foods, good sources of omega-3s are fish oil, flaxseed oil, and echium oil.
- Pump up on probiotics
Probiotics are best known for their role in digestive health, but emerging research suggests that bacteria in the gut sends and receives signals to the brain (known as the gut-brain axis).
Consumption of a probiotic supplement has been found to improve both gut symptoms and depression in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Improvements are being seen in depression symptoms once you truly improve gut health.
Increase your intake of probiotics with foods including:
- Pickled vegetables
- Reach for whole grains
Whole grains are important sources of B vitamins, nutrients vital for brain health. For example, thiamin (vitamin B1) is involved in turning glucose into energy, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is needed to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (involved in learning and memory), vitamin B6 helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, and vitamin B12 is involved in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, among others, all of which help to regulate mood.
Look for grains in their whole form, such as:
- Brown rice
Whole grain foods can be confusing. A rule of thumb when reading food labels is that for every five grams of carbohydrate, a product should have at least one gram of dietary fibre to be considered whole grain.
- Load up on leafy green vegetables
Spinach and other green vegetables contain the B vitamin folate. Although the connection isn’t fully understood, low folate levels have been consistently associated with depression.
Folate deficiency may impair the metabolism of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline (neurotransmitters important for mood), so by increasing vegetable and fruit consumption you may just diminish your risk.
Folate-rich vegetables include:
- Turnip greens
Folate is also plentiful in beans and lentils, with a cup of cooked beans providing 90 per cent of the recommended daily allowance.
- Enrich your diet with foods high in vitamin D
Known as the sunshine vitamin, this nutrient is made naturally in the body when skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays.
Vitamin D may increase the levels of serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters influencing our mood, and that deficiency may be linked with mood disorders, particularly seasonal affective disorder.
Lack of vitamin D is a serious risk for depression in older adults, so do all that you can to increase your levels wherever possible.
How can I get more Vitamin D?
- Spend time in sunlight
- Consume fatty fish and seafood
- Eat more mushrooms
- Include egg yolks in your diet
- Take a liquid supplement of Vitamin D
Making time and concentrating on your health is essential to feeling fabulous and should be your number one priority.