Eat your way to better mental wellness
Low mood and depression are common problems for many people of all ages. If you struggle with feelings of depression, loss of motivation and enthusiasm, or if you have difficulty finding joy in everyday life rethinking your diet may help. Nutritionist and author of the Brain Boost Diet Christine Bailey shares some top tips to nourish your brain and boost mood.
Our diet and lifestyle can have a profound effect on our mood and mental health. research reveals there’s a direct link between what we eat and how we feel. In fact, studies suggest people with depression often make food choices that can actually make them feel worse. Fortunately, there are many foods that can help to improve your mood and motivation. These foods provide you with the right nutrients or cofactors the body needs to produce neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that give up a natural lift.
1. Get in more healthy fats
The human brain is 60% fat which is made up primarily of essential fatty acids and phospholipids. The essential omega-3 fats (which have to be obtained from our diet) are particularly important for brain function, memory, performance and mood. Phospholipids like choline (found in eggs, dairy, liver) are also important for healthy cognitive function.
Good sources of omega 3 essential fats include: oily fish (like sardines, salmon), flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.
2. Protein power
Protein provides you with the building blocks required for the production of our chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that influence how we think and feel. Protein also helps stabilise your blood sugar. Aim to include lean protein with each meal, including breakfast.
Good sources of protein include: lean red meat, poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and dairy.
Various vitamins and minerals are required by the body to produce neurotransmitters – chemicals that affect how we think and feel. These include zinc, magnesium and iron. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a key role in memory and mood. Good sources include red meat, lentils and dark chocolate. Magnesium is often termed the calming mineral as it helps relax the nervous system and calms the brain. Increase your intake with foods such as leafy greens, salmon, avocado and tofu.
If you struggle with low energy and focus, then make sure you check your iron levels. Good sources of iron include: red meat, shellfish, liver, beans and lentils, turkey and tofu.
B vitamins are vital when it comes to a healthy brain. Many of them are involved in methylation as well as energy production. Methylation is a key biochemical process essential for the proper function of almost all of your body’s systems including supporting the production of brain chemicals that affect cognitive function and mood. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, fish and shellfish, leafy greens, beans and pulses.
Because so many of us work indoors all day, it is more difficult to get adequate levels of vitamin D (our primary source is exposure to sunlight). Low vitamin D is linked to poor cognition and low mood. Good sources of vitamin D include: cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel and eggs.
Christine Bailey supported our √Self wellbeing campaign with insight into what foods promote a healthy brain.