Food plays a big role in our lives, so its unsurprising that what we put in our mouth can play a big role in how we feel mentally and emotionally as well. In general, a balanced diet is always best, but there are a few things we can include to take our health to the next level.
Regular consumption of fatty fish, salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines, is a fantastic way to boost your mood. The high levels of vitamin D and omega-3’s that these fish contain are vital for brain function and are specifically linked to the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Omega-3’s are not produced by the body, which is why it is important to include omega-3 rich foods in our diets. Other sources of omega-3’s are nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, and olive oil.
Dark leafy green vegetables are chock-full of vitamins and minerals, so its no wonder they’re always talked about. Among their many beneficial nutrients is magnesium, which plays a big role in calming the nervous system and helping reduce anxiety. Leafy greens are also high in iron, which is necessary for blood production (which carries nutrients around the body), as well as being necessary for creating dopamine. Leafy Green vegetables include spinach, kale, Swiss chard/silverbeet, rocket, and broccoli.
The GUT-Brain connection has been talked about endlessly in the past few years, with good reason! A balanced blend of bacteria in your digestive system has been shown to affect everything from how you digest your food, to your weight, as well as your mental health. While the studies are still finding out which specific strains of bacteria do each job, there is no doubt that eating regular probiotic containing foods will help keep your bacteria in check. Probiotic containing foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir.
Everyone feels good about eating chocolate, and now studies have shown why! Eating 40g of dark chocolate per day over a two week period has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and stress hormones in highly stressed people. This is thought to be due to the high levels of magnesium and antioxidants found in dark chocolate.
Foods to Avoid
It should go without saying, if a food doesn’t make you feel good – don’t eat it! However, there are certain foods that are worse than others, these have little nutritional value and can negatively impact our health. Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, white bread, white pasta, and white potatoes are all items that trigger mood swings and make us feel poorly. This is largely due to these foods rapidly increasing and subsequently decreasing our blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that low blood sugar can cause a stress response in our brains, which means if you’re already not feeling good, you’re going to feel worse.