Food has the power to affect not only your physical being but also your mood and motivation. You’d know yourself…sometimes you eat a meal and are left feeling tired, sluggish and simply flat. Whilst the temptation to reach for stimulants like caffeine or alcohol to drown your sorrows is strong, or perhaps indulging in sugary treats or processed foods is more your thing? These things in the long term, are anything but helpful.
Eating a variety of whole foods is a great place to start and can positively affect the way we think and feel. Gives a new meaning to the term ‘food for thought’ don’t you think?
I’ve already posted about the importance of breakfast for kick starting your day, both physically and mentally. If you’ve missed it, you can catch up here. It is also really important to eat regularly as keeping your blood sugars stable is critical for an even mood. I have treated many patients with mood disorders over the years and have found that even those with serious mental illness, have responded positively to simple dietary modifications and eating regular meals.
There are many everyday whole foods that are known to contain mood-elevating compounds. Here are some of my favourites…
The good oil
Oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, and to a lesser extent walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Don’t like fish? Grass fed beef is also a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids (another very good reason to only eat grass-fed beef and avoid grain fed).
Much research has concluded that a diet rich in omega 3s helps to increase serotonin (good mood hormone) and dopamine (important for drive and motivation). As such, ensuring good amounts of omega 3s in the diet is important for preventing and treating mood disorders, depression (including postpartum), memory loss, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Get your greens
Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of B vitamins, in particular, folate which is an important cofactor in the production of serotonin. They are also a rich source of Magnesium which is essential for nervous system function.
There’s a reason Goldilocks was so brave
Whole grains are also a good source of B vitamins and important for the mood. Oats, in particular, are very nourishing and calming to the nervous system and are used in traditional herbal medicine to support and tone the nerves.
It has always been recognised that the brain affects your gut i.e.; butterflies in your tummy. But did you know that the functioning of the gut also affects the brain and is intricately linked to mental and neurological health? This post offers more detail and the science behind the theory.
I have written about the importance of digestion here, including ways to improve its function. The health of your mind and mood is very much dependant upon your gut health. Chicken soup for the soul anyone (the recipe is here)?
Nuts for your nut
Many nuts and seeds contain amino acid precursors to serotonin, fats, vitamins and minerals required for brain and nervous system function. Have you ever looked at a walnut? It looks just like the brain!
There are so many more whole foods that have a positive effect on your mood and overall health. I’d also like to just mention that a good dose of sunshine and gentle movement never go astray either.