Our moods are emotional states and they play a very important role in life. They can set the tone of the day, influence the decisions we make and impact how we interact with the people around us. Furthermore our mood can dictate our productivity, openness to new opportunities and can even determine which foods we crave.
The right frame of mind will have us reaching for good foods and vice versa, so what can we consume in order to make sure we are feeling good and our mood is stabilised? Below we list some of the most important vitamins and minerals which contribute to our emotional wellbeing.
Without this vitamin our body is unable to produce our feel-good chemicals; serotonin and dopamine. these neurotransmitters are able to stabilise mood and halt depression in it’s tracks.
A study in 2013, published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, restored depleted levels of vitamin C in hospital patients. They found that these patients saw a 71% decrease in mood disturbance and a 51% reduction in emotional distress. These astounding results highlight the importance of including this vitamin in your life.
Foods which are high in vitamin C, include oranges, lemons, broccoli, cauliflowers, green peppers, red peppers and many more. Which of these could you include in your diet? Try a refreshing, freshly-squeezed orange juice and up your vitamin C levels today.
Our gut is responsible for every facet of our health. And it’s no co-incidence that our gut is referred to as our second brain. The gut is directly connected to the brain, by a neuron circuit. How we process our food is linked with our behaviour, mood, immune system and general health. Probiotics help to re-balance our gut micro-biome and boost healthy bacteria while eradicating harmful bacteria. Probiotics can help lower stress levels, anxiety, and help boost feelings of happiness.
The live bacteria within probiotics is highly beneficial and can be found in foods such as kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, pickles and kombucha. These are mainly comprised of fermented or pickled foods.
Vitamin B6 plays a vital role in regulating our mood. Without it, we would be unable to create serotonin, dopamine or gamma-aminobutyric; which stabilises our mood and helps to boost feelings of positivity and confidence. It is also essential for our nerve function and can improve mental disorders such as depression. Chronic stress can deplete our levels of B6, so if you’re suffering from emotional and mental drain; try topping up your B6 levels to balance this out.
The best sources of vitamin B6 include fish, potatoes, eggs, bread, oatmeal, brown rice, spinach and potatoes. Feeling low? Go ahead and reach for a hearty breakfast of eggs on toast; and watch those B6 levels rise.
Omega-3 fatty acids
'About 60 per cent of the dry weight of the brain is fat, with about 30 percent of that in the form of omega 3,' says Dr Eva Cyhlarova, head of research at the Mental Health Foundation. So it’s no surprise that fats are an integral part of our day to day function. Omega-3 fatty acids have a enormous impact on our mental capabilities; they reduce oxidative stress and enhance learning and memory. They are thought to benefit people who suffer from mood disorders and have anti-inflammatory properties which help lower feelings of depression.
Omega-3 fatty acid abundant foods include; salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel. However for those who are plant based; they can get their fix from chia seeds, flax seeds and algae-based EPA and DHA supplements.
Magnesium is key to regulating our bodies stress response. It helps to produce dopamine, serotonin; as well as hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, norepinephrine and epinephrine. It prevents excess cortisol production and calms down our nervous system.
A 2016 study found that almost 16.2 million adult Americans had gone through at least one episode of major depression. This means that their mental wellbeing was affected for a period lasting longer than two weeks. A deficiency in magnesium can contribute to this, as well as feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, exhausted and unable to deal with life’s challenges. When depression is present, cognitive issues begin to surface. Poor concentration, inability to recall information or focus; all become apparent.
By incorporating more magnesium in your diet; you can ensure you are less likely to have mood disturbances or periods of anxiety. Foods including avocado, brazil nuts, legumes, sunflower seeds all have high amounts of this important macro-mineral. Thinking about reaching for that chocolate? Don’t hesitate! Dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium and loaded with beneficial antioxidants. To reap the most benefits; ensure your chocolate is at least 70% cocoa solids. The higher, the better.
A study has revealed that people who have experienced the worst depression and mental psychosis; are often those who have the most severely depleted levels of zinc. This alarming deficiency can lead to ADHD, problems with learning, aggression, depression, violence and anxiety.
Foods that are full of zinc include; oysters, crab, chic-peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, prawns and more. When zinc levels are replenished; it is often found to be therapeutic in treating mental and mood disorders. Improvements in mood and cognitive function are apparent when you include this necessary component in your diet.
Foods to Avoid
Just like there are foods which enhance our moods and make us feel strong, resilient and well-balanced; there are also foods which have the opposite effect.
Caffeine is often used as an energy and mood booster; yet too much can cause anxiety, irritability and dehydration. Try to limit your consumption in order to avoid these negative effects.
An over indulgence in sugary, processed foods; inevitably leads to poor cognitive health and mood. A study has found that those who have adopted a diet high in processed foods, laden with sugar; have a propensity towards depression, fatigue and anxiety. Stick to fresh, natural food in order to feel your best.
Alcohol is most commonly used to help in alleviating anxiety and inducing feelings of happiness and relaxation. Yes it is a depressant; and if you binge drink, it can have the opposite effect, leading to feeling irritable, anxious and experiencing mood swings.
Take stock of what you put in your body and monitor how you feel throughout the day. Stop and reflect on whether the food that is sitting on your plate will improve or worsen your mental state. Making conscious decisions towards nutrition is the key to elevating your mind and body.