February is a hard month – it’s still dark outside and spring seems a long way off. The winter vegetables are getting boring and the spring ones are yet to make it to the farmer’s markets and vegetables boxes. So, this month I am bringing you ideas of food to boost your mood.
When looking at foods to help your mood I look at foods that support the brain as well as foods to support your hormones, nerve transmitters and your gut bacteria. All are important in helping us to feel good. If we eat a stodgy meal, what do we want to do after? Probably curl up on the sofa and fall asleep. If you find yourself sleepy after a meal then you are probably not eating the right food for you and some simple changes in your diet should help. Also if you are feeling low and unmotivated then you are probably going to continue eating badly and are more likely to reach for a piece of white bread or some chocolate than a bowl of broccoli! So it’s a vicious circle. Let’s break that cycle and look at foods to lift our mood.
Feeding the brain
The brain needs fat to perform at its best. A fifth of the brain’s weight is made up of essential fatty acids, which all play an important role in the transmission of nerve signals.
We need to keep the brain fed well to keep our mood elevated and our brain fired up. So that means lots of healthy fats such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds, salmon and sardines. If you don’t eat or don’t like fish and suffer from low mood then I would advise looking at an omega-3 supplement. However, as with all supplements, if you are taking medication, then check with your doctor or nutritional therapist first.
Eating more tryptophan-rich foods will also help to increase your mood. Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin, which is a nerve transmitter thought to help lift mood and make you feel happy.
Tryptophan-rich foods include turkey, fish, lentils, bananas, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and avocado. Many of these foods also contain the mineral zinc, low levels of which have been linked to low mood.
Eat an abundant rainbow
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably keep saying it, but eating a huge variety of different colour fruit and vegetables is probably the number one thing you can do for your health. The more colours and variety of vegetables we get into our diet the broader the range of phytonutrients we will be getting.
Phytonutrients have many antioxidant effects and also help to make sure our gut bacteria is as diverse as possible. So keep your plates colourful and diverse. Don’t forget to eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, which is very plentiful this month, as this has been shown to boost low mood.
Stabilise your blood sugar levels
Keeping your blood sugar levels under control is another great way to keep your mood elevated. Try to avoid refined carbohydrates and caffeine, which play havoc with your blood sugar levels. If you do drink caffeine then stick to green tea, which has been shown to help raise serotonin levels.
Yes I know it’s often cold and wet in February and getting outside is not that tempting. However, it’s important to get outside and go for a brisk walk every day. Recent research has found that just 15 minutes a day outside in morning light helps to reset our circadian rhythm. This will help us sleep better and make us feel better too.
Luckily February is a short month, and soon it will be March, the days will be getting longer and signs of spring will be appearing.
To book an appointment call Katharine on 07769 636352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She is co-founder of The Health Boost (www.thehealthboost.co.uk) – a website dedicated to providing a family friendly solution to healthy eating.
For day-to-day healthy inspiration and new recipes follow them on Facebook and Instagram.