We all have days when we wake up feeling a bit blah, or the pep in our step has wandered off elsewhere and left us behind. Some mornings we can just wake up and everything feels like such an effort.
Don’t worry though, we’ve all been there and I’ve got some good news for you – you can quite literally eat your way to a brighter, clearer, more energised, boosted mood with the contents of your kitchen!
But first things first, let’s start by clearing your cupboards of any processed, refined and artificial junk.
To keep that mood elevated, try to avoid foods that are processed, refined, contain bucket loads of white sugar, addictive’s or have a list of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
These ‘foods’ are not worth your happiness and they just end up making us snappy, moody, weepy and perk-less!
Instead, let’s give your kitchen a wellness injection by replacing the junk with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high quality proteins, good fats and antioxidant rich super foods to simply flood your body with nutrition!
To help you on your way to a well fed soul, here are my 7 Natural Mood Foods to Eat Yourself Happy and Feed Your Soul
No. 1 Increase your L-Tryptophan and Serotonin Levels
There’s a neurotransmitter in our brain called serotonin, AKA the ‘happiness hormone’. Serotonin helps to regulate our mood, appetite, memory, sexual behaviour and sleep and is the neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of happiness, being relaxed and having a good night’s sleep.
In order for the brain to produce serotonin, our bodies require an essential amino acid known as tryptophan. Because tryptophan is an essential amino acid, it means it must come from our diet as it is not made in the body.
In order to regulate our mood and happiness, we require plenty of L-tryptophan to ensure our brain can make enough serotonin.
You can top up your tryptophan intake by including plenty of these foods in your diet – asparagus, bananas, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, spinach, eggs, lentils and beans, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), tofu, tempeh and oily fish.
No. 2 Go Crazy for Carbs
You know that lovely happy and contented feeling you get after eating a freshly baked banana loaf? Like something is hugging your belly in a pleasing way…
Well according to research, carbohydrate rich foods can increase our serotonin levels and improve our mood – bring on the banana bread feasting!
In essence, carbohydrates help our brains to uptake tryptophan and therefore make more happy hormones!
How do I add them to my diet?
First off I would vote bananas because they are jammers packed with vitamin B6, tryptophan and magnesium to relieve stress, plus potassium, iron and fibre. What’s not to love?
Then there’s my all time love, the humble oat,; along with blueberries, sourdough rye or spelt bread, homemade buckwheat pancakes, gluten free muffins, gluten-free pasta or brown rice.
No.3 Feast on Fermented Foods
Did you know that most of your body’s serotonin (the chemical responsible for making you feel happy) is found in the gut, and not the brain?!
The stomach is often referred to as the “second brain,” because there is such a strong connection between our state of mind, our emotions and our bellies. The type and amount of bacteria in our digestive tract really does impact our mood and how we feel, explaining why sometimes we reach for something sweet when we feel upset or stressed.
Low serotonin levels can lead to sadness and depression, meaning it is of vital importance to make sure our intestines are full of “good” bacteria from good fermented foods or supplements.
Because fermented foods feed the healthy bacteria in our digestive system and are essential for intestinal health, so eat up!
Where do I get these fats from in my diet?
Try including raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir (coconut water or dairy), tempeh, miso and kombucha.
These foods repopulate your good bacteria in your gut, helping to make a happy healthy gut, a perfect home for serotonin and ultimately a happy you!
No. 4 Soak up the Sunshine Vitamin – Vitamin D
Vitamin D isn’t just for strong bones and healthy teeth; it also promotes a healthy, balanced immune system and can really help improve our mood by enhancing serotonin production.
Although the body does manufacture vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, for people living in northern latitudes where there is less sunshine, it is recommended to supplement with the nutrient to prevent deficiency.
With most of us working indoors, smothering sun cream on when we see the sun starting to come out, and being north of the equator, it’s well worth taking throughout the year to keep those levels up.
Where do I get this from in my diet?
Aside from the sun, Vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods.
I would advise taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement all through the year, though especially throughout winter.
I would suggest getting your Vitamin D levels checked before taking high doses of vitamin D.
Those prone to SAD (seasonal effective disorder, this one is a must have!)
No. 5 Enjoy Those Healthy Fats
The brain is made up of about 60% fat and to operate optimally it requires plenty of omega-3 and 6 fats, also known as essential fatty acids. These fats cannot be produced in the body themselves, therefore they must be found from food sources.
We need both Omega 3 and 6 for many functions in the body; to brighten our mood and improve our cognitive functioning and alertness, as well as to reduce inflammation, reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases and boost our energy levels.
Where do I get these fats from in my diet?
Organic nuts and seeds including flax, chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds and walnuts are a powerhouse of mood elevating omega 3’s, B vitamins and tryptophan.
Add them to smoothies, breakfast cereals, eat as a snack, toast them and sprinkle over salads or soups or even grind them to a flour and bake with them!
Avocados, olives, coconuts and green leafy veg are also a fantastic source of healthy fats and are key players in boosting mood and happiness!
No. 6 “B” Vitamin Savvy – Up Your B vitamins
If you’re having mood swings, feeling irritable or struggling with brain fog you may be lacking in B Vitamins.
By increasing the amount of B vitamins in your diet, you may begin to notice some positive changes in your mood and experience a feeling of sustained happiness.
Where do I get these from in my diet?
B vitamins can be found in plentiful amounts in dark green leafy veg, nuts and seeds, brown rice, oats, bananas, almonds, avocadoes, nutritional yeast and eggs. (Plus seafood, lean meat and fish if you’re a meat eater)
Dark green veggies, such as collard greens, chard, kale and spinach are rich sources of B vitamins plus healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are a fantastic source of magnesium too, known for its calming effects and positive effect on mood.
Thanks to the nutrients found in greens, they’re great at converting tryptophan and tyrosine amino acids to serotonin and dopamine – the neurotransmitters responsible for making us feel joyful!
Also keep an eye out for foods rich in folate and B6, such as spinach and sunflower seeds which are excellent mood boosters and key players in the production of serotonin.
Alternatively you could take a good B complex vitamin to whack up your levels if you’re under a lot of stress. B vitamins are used up very quickly during stress so it’s a good idea to replenish them.
Please note also that B vitamins are destroyed by things like sugar, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine!
No. 7 Chow down on Cacao
There’s a good reason why we often turn to chocolate when our mood is taking a U turn.
That’s because cacao is renowned for its release of endorphins (the very same chemical released when we fall in love!) and who doesn’t want that feeling when they’re a little down?! (Or at any time come to think of it..!)
Cacao is also a haven of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It has even been shown to relax the walls of blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.
Cacao one of the world’s most potent sources of magnesium, a mineral shown to help alleviate sadness, fatigue, irritation and stress, as well as boosting energy levels.
But remember, I’m not talking about the processed milk and sugar filled stuff. I’m talking about the real deal. The raw cacao in its natural state.
How can I use cacao in my diet?
Add cacao powder or nibs to your smoothies, shakes, muesli, granola, porridge, pancakes, baking, or raw chocolate protein bars and you’re good to go!
So there you have it, my 7 Natural Mood Foods to Eat Yourself Happy and Feed Your Soul.
Enjoy your munchings!
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*I should note, I am not a medical doctor, dietitian, nor certified nutritionist and I do not hold a degree in medicine, dietetics, or nutrition.The content from this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases, but instead is intended to provide information and knowledge from my own personal experience and what I believe. It is not a substitute for real medical advice.My studies in nutrition have given me a lot of fantastic information, however I make no claims to any specialised medical training, nor do I dispense medical advice or prescriptions.