MOOD LIFTING FOODS
As we arrive towards end of another year and begin to set positive intentions for the next one, let’s look at creating some healthy eating habits. Eating well not only helps us to enhance our overall wellbeing, but it can also impact our emotional intelligence or even reduce anxiety and depression. On a biochemical level, certain food nutrients will aid the brain to produce hormones and chemicals that can improve your mood, focus and concentration. While some of the food will drain you and zap your energy.
For years, researchers have considered what we eat as a role player in our emotions, science has proven that what we put in our mouth affects what comes out of our head. Some of the experts go even as far as calling our gut microbiome our “second brain”, so it’s no wonder that our digestive system ties to how we feel.
Bearing in mind that we function due to the food we ingest and metabolize, it makes perfect sense that what we eat also must influence our biochemistry, which is a substantial part of mental health. If food plays such a big part in our mood, then what should we eat to feel our best?
Food In Broad Terms
An ideal meal to boost your mood is one that combines complex carbohydrates with lean proteins and colorful produce. For instance, complex carbs from wholesome foods (like sweet potatoes, oats, legumes, and quinoa) can increase the feel-good chemical serotonin in your brain.
Protein consumption (from foods like poultry, red meat, fish, tofu, beans, eggs, and plain yogurt) has been linked to higher levels of dopamine and noradrenaline, which are brain chemicals that play a role in your mood, motivation, and concentration.
Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that nourish our body and have also been shown to boost happiness.
WHAT TO ACTUALLY EAT?
One of the best ways to start a day is by eating a banana, that is known to be the “happy fruit”. Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 which promotes serotonin to make you feel good, prevents cognitive decline, and reduces mood-related symptoms caused by PMS. Furthermore, one large banana provides 16 grams of natural sugar and 3.5 grams of fiber, which is about 12% of your daily fiber needs for better digestion. Finally, especially when still showing green on the peel, bananas are an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fiber that helps feed healthy bacteria in your gut. A robust gut microbiome is associated with lower rates of mood disorders. Go bananas!
Oats are a whole grain that can keep you in good spirits all morning. Enjoy them in many forms, such as overnight oats, oatmeal, muesli, and granola. They’re an excellent source of fiber and B vitamins that will help your body yield energy from the foods you consume. Fiber also helps slow your digestion of carbs, allowing for a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream providing better endurance for working out.
Not only is the perfect avocado toast visually pleasing to look at, but this fruit — yep, it’s a fruit — is also high in fat with 60% being monounsaturated fats, which help to protect against heart disease and lower blood pressure. They are also an excellent source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. Avocados provide lutein, beta carotene, and Omega-3 fatty acids; and contain high levels of healthy, beneficial fats, which can help a person feel fuller between meals. What’s not to be happy about?
Fatty fish like salmon is rich in two types of Omega-3s — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) — that are linked to lower levels of depression by help to maintain the central nervous system, not to mention the beneficial effects it has on your metabolism. Omega-3 also plays a vital part in our body’s cell manufacturing, making our hair and skin shiny, giving the appearance of happiness.
Quinoa can easily be called a superfood, containing protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as antioxidants. Unlike most plant-based foods, quinoa is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins that make up our muscles, bones, skin, and blood. Nutrient rich foods promote brain health, good mood and may aid in weight loss.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, Omega-3, and fiber. They provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin – almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources. Certain nuts and seeds, such as Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts, are good sources of zinc and selenium that are essential for optimal brain function minimizing the risk of depression.
All the chocolate lovers rejoice, research indicates that antioxidant-packed dark chocolate may increase serotonin levels. It is high in health-promoting flavonoids, which increase blood flow to your brain, help reduce inflammation, and boost brain health, all of which may support mood regulation. Most of all its the pleasurable taste of chocolate, its texture, and smell that also promote good mood. Nutritionists advise choosing the dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
According to several studies, consumption of coffee can negatively affect your mood and cause anxiety. It’s better caffeinated counterpart green tea on the other hand, contains antioxidants that are great mood boosters, as well as have properties that can fight cancer and reduce the risk of other chronic illnesses.
Often when feeling blue, people tend to opt for calorie-rich, high sugar foods like ice cream or cookies to try to lift their spirits. While this might give you a false sense of satisfaction from the sugar rush, it’s unlikely to help you in the long term. Instead, try to aim for wholesome foods that have been shown to not only boost your mood but also your overall health. Try out some of the foods above to kick-start your positivity mindset routine.
If you need Nutritional Guidance, our Naturopath will discuss your nutritional goals while considering your current dietary and lifestyle patterns. Individualized nutritional advice is then provided to address any specific health conditions or personal goals that you have in mind. At Kamalaya, we believe dietary habits play an important role in both the preventative and curative aspects of health so receiving the right nutritional guidance is essential.
And those looking for a more advance journey to Enriched Gut will benefit from our wellness retreat on Koh Samui. Specialized treatments drawing from yoga, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and naturopathy will be tailored around your particular health condition, focused to restore harmony to this most integral of organs that forms the very foundation of our wellbeing. Hippocrates, the Ancient Greek father of modern medicine, claimed that ‘All disease begins in the gut’. Thousands of years later, gut health has become an area for intensive scientific research that bears out this assertion, as well as revealing a strong link between the health of our gut and the health of our mind.
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