When you’re feeling blue, what foods do you crave? I bet its calorie-rich, sugar-laden comfort foods like fudge or ice cream. But do you feel better afterward? I can confidently say ‘no’. In fact, you feel worse and crave more comfort food because your blood sugar dropped and you need that sugar spike desperately. To add insult to injury, that sugar laden-helping comes with a big scoop of guilt making you worse off than when you started. There is in fact a direct link between unbalanced blood sugar and mood because your brain runs on glucose and when your blood sugar is uneven, so will your mood be.
But are there foods that can help lift your mood? Of course there is, and one of them is chocolate! Good quality 70% cocoa-rich dark chocolate. It is high in health-promoting flavonoids that will boost feel-good chemicals (endorphins) in your brain, and psychologically just the thought of having chocolate promotes a good mood.
Chocolate is not the only good mood food. Here are some more:
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel as they contain Omega-3 fatty acids – a necessary component of the neurotransmitter serotonin which stabilises moods and therefore lowers depression.
- Berries are rich in a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin that may lower your risk of depression.
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir. These foods can balance the bacteria in your gut to produce ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as tryptophan and serotonin. Our guts often reflect how we are feeling emotionally. If we are stressed or anxious, our gut may slow down or speed up. And fermented foods help to stabilise the gut.
- Certain nuts and seeds, such as brazil nuts and almonds are high in tryptophan, zinc, and selenium which is needed for brain function. Eating these nuts regularly help in the fight against depression.
- Bananas, although high in sugar, are also high in fibre and this means it controls the release of sugar. This in turn allows for stable blood sugar levels equating to better mood control. And because it is a good source of vitamin B6, which helps to make feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, it assists in lifting your mood.
- And ditto for beans and lentils.
The bottom line is that food can lift your mood. But as with all things, not in isolation, include lifestyle mood-enhancing practices such as:
- going for a walk to boost your dopamine levels (the ‘happy hormone’)
- eat wholesome foods daily
- feel the sun on your face
- meditate and have a good night’s sleep
And if you need ice-cream to feel better, eat a little bit (guilt-free) whilst watching your favourite show on Netflix – be kind to yourself. Then, get up and go for a walk and prepare a healthy meal. Always remember that you are allowed to feel blue every now and then, as long as you learn to manage it.