Whether we're tired, sad or happy, it's safe to say we've all self-medicated with food at least once. So what foods should we be eating to boost our mood? Studies have shown following a Mediterranean diet may help to boost your mood naturally. Follow in the footsteps of our healthy and happy Mediterranean friends and add these five foods to boost your mood.
Oily fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines, trout and swordfish, are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s can reduce inflammation in the body, and are often recommended for treating high triglycerides, arthritis and sports injuries. Omega-3’s can increase the secretion of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, improving your mood. To achieve the recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids, aim for 3 servings of oily fish per week. If you are a vegetarian, or don’t like fish, aim for daily serves of chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and/or spirulina.
One of the biggest influencers on mood is blood sugar levels. Once your blood sugar levels drop, irritability, fatigue, moodiness and sugar cravings tend to follow. Foods containing refined carbohydrates and sugars, knows as ‘high GI’ foods (i.e. white bread, pretzels, rice crackers, sweets) will cause your blood sugar levels to peak and drop within 2 hours. Skipping meals or avoiding carbohydrates altogether may also cause low blood sugar. Eating ‘low GI’ foods at each main meal, like fresh fruit, unflavoured dairy products and high fibre grains (i.e. oats, quinoa, wholegrain bread) help to keep blood sugar levels stable for at least 3-4 hours. Moodiness be-gone!
We could all do better when it comes to meeting the recommended five servings of veg per day. Now there’s even more reason to boost our intake of dark green leafy veggies, with studies showing they may play a role in improving mood. Folate, a B group vitamin, helps to reduce blood homocysteine levels, and high homocysteine has been shown to double the risk of depression in women. Be careful with how you prepare these vegetables – folate is water soluble, and you may lose some vitamin content by boiling or over cooking. We suggest raw, lightly steamed or sautéed with a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
There’s no doubt about it, lean red meat is one of the best sources of iron and vitamin B12. Anaemia, which can develop as a result of inadequate iron or vitamin B12 intake, will certainly leave you feeling low. A study of over 1,000 women showed lower intakes of lean red meat may be related to anxiety and depression. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet suggests lean red meat up to four times a week.
Ok – this last one may not strictly follow the Mediterranean lead, but we can’t go past dark chocolate as a ‘sometimes’ treat! Dark chocolate contains mood improving compounds theobromine and phenylethylamine, as well as flavanols, polyphenols and methylxanthines – three antioxidants all believed to contribute to dark chocolate’s mood-enhancing effects. A recent Swiss study found that consuming 40g of dark chocolate per day for two weeks reduced the stress hormone cortisol in people with anxiety . Note – 40g of dark chocolate contains 200 calories (840kj), slightly over the recommended 150 calorie target for a healthy snack. So - enjoy in moderation!