A few smart diet tweaks can leave you feeling fantastic…
70% of Brits say they feel happier when they eat healthily, according to Seasonal Berries. Despite this, 38% of Brits admit they reach for chocolate and crisps even though they feel worse after eating them.
We spoke to three experts about the link between food, and how we feel – Functional Health Coach Fran McElwaine (franmac.co.uk), Nutritionist Anita Bean, AXA PPP Healthcare Physiologist Georgina Camfield
And it turns out, food and mood are more closely related than you think.
‘Our bodies use food like computers use software,’ says health coach Fran McElwaine. ‘Food is information and programs all systems and body functions – from balancing hormones to producing energy and fighting disease. Input faulty information and your body won’t have the “code” to work properly, making us ill, depressed and anxious.
‘Some types of food, like sugar, alcohol and processed carbohydrates, promote the bacteria whose by-products actively undermine our sense of wellbeing,’ she says. ‘The closer the food is to nature, the better it is for your brain and your mood.’
Read on to discover how easy it is to incorporate all the right ‘codes’ into your daily diet to feel happier and healthier…
Fran shares her tips for organising a daily meal plan around mood-boosting foods…
Breakfast: Inflammation-busting smoothie Blend banana, pineapple, 1/2tsp each of grated fresh ginger and turmeric with coconut kefir.
Lunch: Beetroot Houmous with Veggie Crudites Mix 400g drained chickpeas, two boiled beetroot (peeled and chopped), 6tbsp tahini, juice of one lemon, one small chilli, two cloves of garlic, a handful of chopped coriander, half a cup of olive oil, and salt and pepper into a blender and whiz until uniform. Add more oil, garlic or chilli to suit your own taste. Serves 2
Snack: 3 Brazil Nuts and a piece of fruit
Dinner: Baked Thai Salmon and Veggies Put two fillets of wild/organic salmon on a large piece of lightly oiled baking parchment. Fold the edges upwards to form a ‘bowl’ and add four cut spring onions, half an inch of sliced raw ginger, a handful of chopped coriander, the juice of one lemon, two cloves of garlic and 2tbsp tamari soy sauce. Add a drizzle of sesame oil. Secure as a package and cook at 180C for 20 minutes. Serve with steamed green veggies. Serves 2
Mood-boosting foods: which foods can improve how we feel?
‘Just like bananas, one of the best sources of tryptophan, the building block for serotonin,’ says nutritionist Anita. ‘Try some on porridge or salads.’
‘Oily fish contains lots of DPA, the Omega 3 fat that’s really good for our brain and mood,’ says health coach Fran.
‘High in tryptophan and vitamin B6, their carb content triggers insulin production and raises serotonin levels in the brain,’ says Anita.
‘Magnesium (found in leafy greens, quinoa, avocado and black beans) is needed for multiple cellular processes and an insufficiency in this important mineral can cause energy and mood levels to fall,’ explains Fran.
‘Dark chocolate has high levels of phenols, causing the brain to release ‘happy’ endorphins and increase positivity,’ says Anita. But be careful of the calories and be sure to keep portions small!
‘With a low glycaemic index, these are great for slow-release energy to stop blood-sugar spikes and banish moodiness,’ says Anita.
‘Chickpeas contain plenty of zinc. This is another mineral that’s extremely important for our wellbeing and is essential for both a strong immune system and wound healing,’ says Fran.
‘Liver has a high iron content. If you have too little iron in your blood it can make you feel lethargic and dampen your mood*,’ says physiologist Georgina Camfield. Not a fan? Both lentils and soybeans are also fortified with iron.
Oranges, lemons and limes all contain folate. ‘Studies* have suggested that having insufficient folate in your diet can increase your chances of feeling low,’ says Georgina.
Top tip – Avoid drinking tea with your meals as this may reduce the absorption of iron from food.
Which foods should we avoid for our mood?
‘The food that’s most guaranteed to disrupt our mood is sugar and other processed carbohydrate products made out of flour,’ explains Fran. ‘These foods trigger the addiction hormone dopamine, and so they might make us feel good in the short term, but they initiate a cycle of cravings, over-eating and guilt – which causes mood swings.’
READ MORE: The royal family’s favourite foods!
Tired of battling the blues? Georgina has also offered some top tips can help ensure meal times bring you joy and keep you smiling.
Don’t: Skip meals
Eating regularly keeps your blood sugar levels stable and you’re less likely to feel dips in your mood and energy levels if used to doing so.
Do: Eat breakfast
When you sleep, your body uses energy to repair and recuperate cells, so when you wake up your energy stores are depleted. Fuelling yourself well in the morning helps to kick-start your day and recharge your batteries.
Don’t: Always eat the same foods
Eating a variety of foods means you’ll get a broader range of vitamins and minerals and will feel even better.
Do: Stay hydrated
Dehydration can make you feel tired and affect your ability to concentrate.