Top Three Foods to Boost Your Mood- Katie Shore

Jan 7, 2019 | Nutrition

I love this time of year: the colder weather, the darker evenings and the multitude of festivities on offer. All get me as excited as a kid waiting for Father Christmas to arrive. However, the change in seasons often comes with a price – lethargy from lack of sunlight and the myriad of cold and flu bugs floating about can leave us feeling less than perky. Coupled with the onslaught of office parties and festive celebrations we can often reach the end of the year limping over the finish line rather than ending it with the bang we hoped.

If this is starting to sound like you then you’re in luck; because the food and drink we consume during this time of year can have a huge influence on how we feel. A couple of simple changes here and there can help to give you more energy and boost those feel good vibes well into the new year. And no, I’m not going to lecture you about abstaining from a festive tipple because I believe that a little bit of everything in moderation can be a good thing.

With this in mind, below are my top three foods which contain a number of health benefits specifically known to boost your mood but won’t break the bank. Perfect pick me ups during the dark winter days.

Firstly, Bananas – the humble banana may not look anything fancy but it packs a nutritional punch. It is full of potassium (a key electrolyte involved in blood pressure regulation), vitamin C and B6, B2 and B7. It also contains magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan. B vitamins and tryptophan have been linked to improvements in mood and with bananas, the tryptophan and B vitamins work together to create one of the body’s key neurotransmitters (chemical messengers used by the brain) serotonin which helps to regulate mood. Serotonin is often called ‘the happy hormone’ for this reason.

Try: freezing peeled bananas in batches and blending 1/2 frozen banana to your smoothie every day for a quick nutritional boost. As bananas contain less water than other fruits the sugar content is higher; sticking to 1/2 banana per serve will help to keep your sugar levels from spiralling too high.

Next up, Green leafy vegetables – dark green leafy vegetables in particular are the ones to go for as they contain a whole range of nutritional benefits. Spinach, kale, swiss chard and even rocket are great choices as they are packed full B vitamins (B1, B2, B6), folic acid, iron, vitamins C and K and even magnesium. We’ve explored B vitamins for mood (above) but magnesium is a powerful micronutrient which helps the body to relax, so adding a combination of these greens to your daily diet is no bad thing.

Try: wilting a handful in some olive oil and garlic and stirring through scrambled eggs. A handful may sound a lot but the greens will shrink when cooked. As these greens contain fat soluble vitamins they are best eaten with some healthy fats, otherwise your body will not be able to absorb as much of the goodness. Alternatively serving a portion of steamed chard dressed in olive oil as as side to your evening meal is super simple and tasty.

Lastly, Dark chocolate – Now you might not have expected me to include this in the list but I’m happy to report that good quality dark chocolate has been proven to contain a number of health benefits – when eaten in moderation. High cocoa chocolate contains a number of beneficial flavonoids (the dark pigments in berries and grapes), antioxidants (which protect against cellular damage) and the amino acid arginine which helps the body to regulate blood flow and inflammation. Some dark chocolate has been shown to have more beneficial antioxidants than tea and triggers the brain to release endorphins, boosting your serotonin levels to make you feel good. It’s not hard to find chocolate but opt for the 75% or above cocoa solids, preferably organic, version as anything less will contain a higher sugar content but lower nutritional value.

Try: I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to eat chocolate but recommended portion sizes are about 2 squares a day. I like to melt mine into my morning porridge or dunk it into crunchy peanut butter for an extra dose of good fats but on it’s own works just as well.

And that concludes my top three mood boosting foods that are easy to incorporate into your diet, come with a whole host of health benefits and won’t break the bank this January.

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