The idea that eating well is linked to having good health is one that has been around for a while. But, the link between how food can affect our mood is something the scientific community has recently started to think about.
Nutritionists and scientists have started to uncover evidence that demonstrates that food rich in vitamins and fatty acids are not only good for your health, but can also lift your mood and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
So how does this work? Well, it all relates to how what we eat affects our major organs and, most importantly, our brain. Eating foods that help keep our brain and cognitive system healthy is the key to increasing our good moods, and reducing negative feelings, including stress and anxiety. Here are the top five foods that you incorporate into your diet, or try to eat more of, to improve your mood and promote long-term happiness:
It probably comes as no surprise that fresh ‘oily’ fish such as salmon, trout, and swordfish help keep your brain healthy. They are rich sources of essential fatty acids like omega-3 which, on its own, makes up nearly 20% of your brain weight. A diet rich in fatty acids can help increase energy and encourage better memory retention. It is also worth pointing out that our bodies don’t produce omega-3 on their own, so ensuring we have enough of it in our diet is really important.
If you are a vegetarian, or non-fish eater, don’t fret – although fish might be the easiest way to incorporate fatty acids into your diet, other foods rich in omegas include: chia seeds and dark greens like spinach.
Almonds & Cashews
Eating almonds and cashews is a great way to get magnesium into your diet – a key mineral that has hundreds of positive health functions in our bodies. Almonds and cashews are healthy fats that can help the development of serotonin (the happy hormone) in our bodies, and cashews are one of the highest dietary sources of tryptophan. So eating these two nuts can reduce irritability and stress.
It is worth remembering, however, that many varieties of almonds and cashews come salted and sugar-coated. These processed varieties will not have the same health benefits, so try to eat only plain and natural almonds and cashews and limit your intake to one or two handfuls a day.
Legumes, including lentils and chickpeas, are a rich source of vitamin B, a lack of which has been shown to contribute to low moods and mood swings. Eating foods with vitamin B helps to regulate brain function, by aiding the production of neurotransmitters – which are the part of the brain responsible for transmitting messages about our emotions.
Vitamin B is already a widely used scientific method used to help in the treatment of certain types of depression.
So, eating a diet rich in legumes can help build a strong immune system and encourage better short-term memory retention.
Eggs are a great source of vitamin D, an essential vitamin we also get from sunlight. Increasing vitamin D in your diet, is particularly important during the winter months, and for people who live in less sunny parts of the world. Vitamin D is key in the proper function of cell regeneration that helps our bodies heal better and faster. Increasing your intake of eggs can also boost your mood by encouraging the production of serotonin – the happy hormone.
If you can’t tolerate a diet with eggs, are vegan, or avoiding cholesterol rich foods, great alternative sources of vitamin D include coconut milk, mushrooms fish and cheese.
Pumpkin seeds are often referred to as a ‘super food’ because it has several minerals that are important for promoting a healthy diet. But the reason pumpkin seeds have made it into our top 5 essential happy foods is because they contain a mineral that is difficult to get elsewhere – zinc. The mineral zinc plays a function in nearly every part of our bodies, and eating foods rich in zinc can help boost your immune system and encourage a healthy digestive system.
Having good digestive health alone can be a reason for many people to be happy, however, foods high in zinc have also been shown to improve the effectiveness and reduce the unwanted side effects of antidepressants. Some sources of zinc can be found in meats and poultry but raw pumpkin seeds offer one of the richest sources of the mineral. So, even though pumpkin seeds can be important to everyone, they can particularly benefit vegans, vegetarians, and people taking antidepressant medication.