Diet and lifestyle practices can really improve our mood, especially during trying and difficult times. With everything that is going on at the moment throughout the world, there really is no better time than now to focus on your mental health. Let’s talk about some key vitamins and minerals in foods that you can add into your diet to help support your mood!
One of the best places to start when it comes to good mood foods is essential fats. Specifically, omega-3 essential fatty acids are crucial in relation to your mood and brain health. Our brain is 60–70% fat, so these essential fats are critical for the proper functioning of the chemical messengers in our brain, controlling your emotions and how your brain operates each day. Aim to eat fatty fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel twice per week and on the other days, have 1 to 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts or flaxseed oil. If you don’t like fish, bump up your daily intake of the plant-based omega-3 sources.
Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium
Zinc, magnesium and selenium are three very important minerals when it comes to keeping your mental health in tip-top shape. Each mineral plays a role in the working of our nervous system, production of neurotransmitters and also in the supply of antioxidants to protect the brain. Some of the richest sources of magnesium are spinach, pumpkin seeds, lima beans, tuna, brown rice, almonds, dark chocolate & avocado. Magnesium is actually a mineral which our body churns through a large amount of during times of stress and can relatively quickly become depleted. Magnesium assists to calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety and irritability and assists with sleep. Your body also absorbs magnesium, so even trying out a Magnesium Salt (Chloride) bath is great for an end of the day wind down.
Low zinc can lead to signs of a low mood. Zinc activates a whole range of hormonal, neurotransmitter and signalling pathways within the gut that connect directly with the functioning of the brain. Some of the best sources of zinc come from oysters, red meat, chicken, tofu, hemp and pumpkin seeds.
Selenium is a mineral associated highly with your mood. A depletion can lead to a depression state. One of the highest concentrated foods when it comes to selenium is brazil nuts. Having up to three brazil nuts a day can provide you with the right amount to enhance your mood. Other great sources include tuna, oysters, pork, beef, chicken, tofu, whole wheat pasta and mushrooms.
Our body uses B vitamins during times of stress, so the importance in replenishing our supply through our diet is very high. Specifically, B vitamins help the body convert the food we eat into energy, acts as a co-factor to form neurotransmitters needed for a healthy mood, plays a role in memory and concentration and on top of all that, supports nerve health. Food sources of B vitamins include beef, turkey, tuna, chickpeas, fish, bananas, nuts, seeds and whole grains. If supplementing the diet with B vitamins, make sure to take it as a B complex because all of the different B vitamins work in synergy to get the job done.
Protein is an important macronutrient when it comes to mental health and mood as protein rich foods contain amino acids, which are needed for positive neurotransmitter synthesis. Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers within the brain and are responsible in how your mood is tracking. Aiming to include a source of protein at each meal and snack is really crucial to keep your mood levelled as much as possible throughout the day. These include lean meats, fish, eggs, yoghurt, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds or protein powder.
What should we avoid consuming to keep our mood the best it can be?
Excess refined sugar – consuming large amounts on a daily basis can spike blood sugar and lead to a crash.
Alcohol – similarly, alcohol can wreak havoc on your mental health, and often lead to ‘comedowns’ in the following days. If you are stressed, avoid turning to alcohol for relief. Try to find more effective and healthy coping strategies such as exercise, calling a friend or engaging in a hobby.
Caffeine – if you are already feeling anxious or worried, avoiding caffeine may be of benefit. If you love the ritual of drinking coffee or black tea, replace it with something like a turmeric latte, chai latte or herbal tea.
Overall, it is really important to make sure you are eating regularly throughout the day and keeping your blood sugar balanced. If you are feeling too anxious or overwhelmed to eat, try having small snack sized meals. And don’t forget being active and moving your body really helps to not only release endorphins, but to help clear the mind and shift focus away from the worlds worries. It is so important for your mental health so find something that you enjoy doing and make it a consistent part of your daily routine