By Angela Hartley on 09 January 2022
Foods That Can Improve Your Mood
Turkey is high in phenylalanine, an amino acid which the brain converts to dopamine, a brain chemical that elevates mood and motivation and prevents depression. A study published in a German psychiatry journal showed that phenylalanine was as effective as an antidepressant drug. As well as turkey, phenylalanine is found in most protein foods, so eat them when you want to feel sharper.
Liver is one of the richest sources of vitamin B6, which you need to convert the phenylalanine from the protein you eat to mood-enhancing dopamine and energizing adrenaline. If you don’t get enough vitamin B6, you’ll probably feel low, and stress depletes your levels further. If the thought of liver doesn’t exactly boost your mood, get your vitamin B6 from brown rice, quinoa, cous cous or other wholegrains. If you are avoiding grains, you may need a B Complex supplement.
Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. It can boost metabolism and energy levels, making you feel more alert by interfering with the action of drowse-inducing adenosine in the brain. It also manipulates the same channels in the brain as amphetamines, activating the brain’s pleasure centres. Do avoid after 4pm though as it can disrupt your sleep, which will have the opposite effect on your mood! One to two coffees per day shouldn’t leave you feeling too jittery.
Your brain needs an amino acid called tryptophan in order to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can have a calming effect. Tryptophan can help you to make more of your own serotonin. Dairy foods are a great low-fat source of tryptophan, but you can also get it from poultry and nuts, especially peanuts.
Eating carbohydrates in small quantities boosts serotonin levels, and slow-release ‘complex’ carbs like oat and rye flakes keep you sustained, helping you to stay mellow and preventing between-meals drops in blood sugar. Protein in nuts and milk further lower the glycaemic index (GI) of that bowlful, so your blood sugar levels don’t spike and plummet, and this prevents the ‘sugar slump’ and accompanying crabbiness you’d get all-too-soon after eating a high GI sugary snack like a chocolate muffin.
Brazil nuts are the number one source of the mineral selenium, which helps maintain your mood and prevent depression. Although scientists haven’t figured out exactly how, it seems that selenium is essential for maintaining a happy mood – it’s so important that when the body's stock is being run down, the brain is the last organ to give up its stash. Just five to six Brazil nuts give you your recommended daily intake.
Green leafy vegetables like kale are high in folate (folic acid). And since low levels of folate have been linked to depression in many studies, it makes sense that if you keep your folate levels up, you’re at less risk of a low mood.
Mackerel, which is an oily fish, is one of the best source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which can help to prevent the blues. Omega 3’s can boost serotonin levels and also enhance your brain’s receptiveness to the neurotransmitter. Aim for a serve of oily fish every 2-3 days. Vegetarians can get smaller amounts of Omega-3s from seeds, especially linseeds (flaxseeds) and their oil.
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