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The best foods for improving your mood

So you might as well eat the right foods to help your mood? Right?

There are so many factors that can contribute to our mood, these may include such things as our environment, stress from work/home/relationships, past and current trauma or psychological stress: to our genetic predisposition, social habits and a less known factor is nutrient intake.

The food we eat can impact our moods: and a diet with inadequate nutrients can contribute to low mood, anxiety, depression as well as low energy or a foggy head and poor cognition.

The neurotransmitters in our brains regulate our mood and behaviour and are regulated in part by our food or nutrient intake.

The neurotransmitters that are most closely related to mood are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. When the brain makes serotonin, we typically feel happier and more relaxed. When serotonin and norepinephrine are produced, we think and act more quickly and clearly. We always feel better when we can think clearly! (Well I certainly do!)

It is important to be consistent with our nutritional intake, particularly during periods of stress - which is the time when we are least likely to be focussed in what we put in our mouths. So even though we tend to crave sugary foods for a quick mood ‘fix’, the long term and lasting’ fix’ is with eating a good combination of lean proteins, some healthy fats and lots of freash healthy vegetables to stabilize blood sugar and neurotransmitters.

I've put together a simple list of healthy foods that you can focus on bringing into your diet regularly.

1. Tryptophan, found in eggs, fish and cows milk, boosts serotonin levels to balance out mood and contribute to a more positive outlook.

2. High protein foods, such as fish, chicken, turkey and eggs are high in protein, which enhances dopamine and norepinephrine production, which then helps concentration.

3. Bananas boost serotonin and dopamine production.

4. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal), vegetables and legumes stimulate the production of serotonin. Sugary simple carbs do not provide the same benefit.

5. The healthy fat in avocados help raise dopamine levels and increase endorphins.

6. Almonds increase dopamine levels as well as being high in fibre and good fat for brain health.

7. Dark chocolate boosts serotonin levels without resulting in a sugar crash as in other forms of chocolate. Choose dark chocolate with more than 85% cocoa.

8. Green tea contains the amino acid l-theanine which improves mood while reducing stress and anxiety – and may increase mental alertness, focus and memory.

9. Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna help support healthy brain function and protect against mood swings and depression.

10. Probiotics – help improve mood as we have serotonin receptors in our gut and an imbalance of the good/bad bacteria can disrupt the production/ reception of serotonin.

Another way of looking at the foods, focussing on their nutrient content:

Omega 3 for brain health, & to reduce inflammation - sardines, salmon, oysters, chia seeds,walnuts, cod liver oil

Zinc for brain health - pumpkin seeds, oysters, chickpeas, hemp seeds

B vitamins - avocado, eggs, legumes, nutritional yeast

Antioxidents to support cognitive function & protect the brain from free radical damage: red cabbage, blueberries, brocolli, turmeric

It is important to introduce small steps when changing ones diet. Focus on one thing at a time. Otherwise it becomes overwhelming and it is easier to fall off the wagon.

Of course, I do not recommend eating foods that you know you are intolerant to. If a food makes you feel queasy, get diarrhoea or other symptoms, then you need to avoid it, and support your gut health to improve absorption of nutrients, as well as replacing the food with something else that will give you those nutrients. A Hair Test helps us identify which foods are reactive.

Avoiding sugar and processed foods will also help with supporting mood - did you know that sugar uses up many of the minerals that you eat? So if you eat a lot of processed and packaged food you will be depleted already!

Moods can also be supported by addressing hormonal imbalances - PMS, cramps, heavy periods, as well as pain and other health issues.

If you need some support and guidance book a naturopathic consultation so we can work together to make a plan for you.

Some other options that we can add into a treatment plan for mood support are flower essences and herbal tonics which help regulate the nervous system and general wellbeing.

Or, sign up for the 21 Day Whole Food Cleanse for some weekly support to get you on the right track. This program covers what to eat and why, as well as how to implement lifestyle changes to support healthy eating, what sugar does to your body and more.

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