Eating to Support your mood

For decades studies have shown the direct correlation between a healthy diet and reduced rates of depression and the impact the food can have on a persons mood. Simply put the brain is an organ just like the heart and relies on a healthy diet and nutrients in order to function. The brain is the most important organ in the body, and despite only being around 2% of your total body weight it required 25-30% of your daily energy requirements. 

Some Key foods that support brain health & good mood include:

1. Oily fish ( salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, herring ) Oily fish contains a particular type of unsaturated fatty acids called 'Essential Fatty acids' These are considered essential because the body cannot synthesise them, so they need to be obtained through the diet. Two fatty acids EPA & DHA are important in brain health because they make up cell membranes. They help to keep everything thats inside stay inside, and prevent things from outside entering. Other functions of EFA include energy production, immune support and mood regulation. 

2. Tryptophan rich foods - Eggs, turkey, pumpkin seeds, cashews chicken, beans, lentils
The Amino Acid Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that the the brain produces. It plays a role in sleep, appetite, and impulse control. Increased levels of serotonin can help elevate mood which is why it is known as the 'happy hormone' 

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3. Complex carbohydrates - Sweet potato, oats, pulses, legumes, vegetables, whole grains
Complex carbohydrates help to release sugar gradually into the blood stream preventing blood sugar spikes. This is due to the fibre that these foods contains, as it causes them to be digested slowly. Fluctuations in blood sugars can exacerbate mood swings, irritability and depression. Complex carbohydrates also contain other vital nutrients such as B vitamins, Mg & Zinc.
B Vitamins help to improve mood by increasing the mood modulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

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4. Phytonutrients / Antioxidants - Red berries, vegetables, 
Antioxidants and phytonutrients (found in colourful fruit and vegetables) help to prevent and 'mop' up free radicals – ( these are unstable molecules that can cause tissue damage and contribute to ageing). Studies show people who suffer with depression could be affected by free radicals causing nerve depletion in the emotion centres of their brain. This may explain why those who eat more fruit and vegetables appear less at risk of suffering from depression. 

5. Fermented Foods 
Fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and full fat yogurt contain probiotic bacteria that are essential to good gut health. There is a direct correlation between gut health and the brain - known as the gut-brain axis. Many people who suffer with mood disorders will also struggle with gut issues.Your intestines contain almost as many nerves as your brain. This is why the gut is often referred to as “the second brain”  Studies show that supporting gut health can reduce inflammation, depression and anxiety. 
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6. Protein - meat, soy, beans, legumes, nuts & seeds
Protein is essential for brain health and helping to balance our blood sugar levels. Poorly controlled blood sugars can cause mood swings. Your brain is reliant on several amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to build neurotransmitters,  referred to as brain hormones because they enable communication between different regions of the brain, and they significantly impact your mood, emotions and cognitive functions.

Diet and lifestyle can play a huge role in a our mood and mental health. Studies show that eating a balanced diet including lots of the above foods, regularly exercising, adequate sleep and lowered stress levels can boost mood and prevent from conditions such as depression and anxiety.