JOURNAL

Inspiration, Solutions & Expert Advice

Mind & Body

Good Mood Food: Eat Your Way To Happy

Struggling with anxiety, depression, mood swings, or irritability lately? The answer could lie in your diet. Shake off your funk, find your happiness & supercharge your energy with these mood-boosting foods to help you feel your best.

Feeling a little down lately? Tuning into healthy, nutritious foods could be a simple way to improve your mood, and boost your health and wellbeing. According to the experts, a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet including lots of delicious whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein can provide all the right vitamins, and minerals your mind and body needs to thrive. Ready to dig in? 

Is mood really affected by food according to science?

Yes, says holistic nutritionist, cookbook author, and recipe developer, Jenna Radomski. "Our food choices and our mood are intricately linked thanks to the interplay of blood sugar balance, hormone and neurotransmitter levels, and the nutrients we eat.” 

The gut-brain axis

Nutritionist Sophie Trotman explains the link between the food we eat and how we feel. “Our brain and gut are connected through the gut-brain axis. This means that our mental health affects our gut health, and our gut health affects our mental health.” 

It all comes down to how the food we eat affects our hormones because our hormones tend to dictate our mood. “Hormones are manufactured in our gut. In fact, 90% of the body’s supply of serotonin is synthesized in our gut. Therefore, if our gut isn’t functioning optimally, this impacts our levels of serotonin, otherwise known as the happiness hormone. Imbalances in blood sugar can lead to dips, leaving us feeling irritable and low. Nutrient intake and deficiencies can cause systemic imbalances which impact our mood,” explains Trotman. 

Serotonin (‘the happiness hormone’) is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep and appetite, inhibits pain, and mediates mood. In other words, a happier gut means a happier and healthier you. This is great news, especially if you struggle with anxiety, depression, low mood, or mood swings. It means you can have more control over how you feel by deciding what’s on your plate. 

Feel-good foods

You’ll be glad to know it’s not all rice crackers and kale! The body needs variety because different foods deliver different nutritional benefits all around our body. “It is important to not place unnecessary importance on one specific food. Variety is key for optimal gut health and to hit our micronutrient targets. A whole-food, anti-inflammatory diet is the way to go for brain health,” says Trotman. 

1. Water

Most of us probably aren’t drinking enough water. Trotman explains why staying hydrated is so important. “When you consider that all cellular reactions happen in water, not drinking the recommended 2 liters of water a day can have a huge impact on our mood. Water is also how we flush out cortisol, the stress hormone. If you’re not drinking enough, you may get a build-up of cortisol, leading to greater feelings of stress and overwhelm.” 

Drinking enough water each day can help us to stay energized and support our insides to function properly. And when our insides are functioning optimally, it’s amazing the difference we will see in our hair, nails, and skin too! Not drinking enough water can lead to headaches, poor concentration, mood changes, and fatigue from dehydration. Recognize any of those? It’s time to get sipping! 

2. Omega 3, 6 & 9

“Oily fish is a big one. We should be consuming 2-3 portions of oily fish a week. If you are vegan, you may want to include a vegan omega 3 algae-derived supplement. You can get omega 3 fatty acids from flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. However, the form of omega-3 that these foods contain is not as readily absorbed by the body as oily fish,” says Trotman. 

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are great sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Our body doesn't naturally produce these fatty acids, so we have to make sure we’re getting through our diet. Salmon contains two types of fatty acids that have been linked to lowering depression. Omega-3s play a key role in cell signaling and brain development. It can also be found in walnuts, flaxseeds, and some eggs (just look for the label). Studies suggest that 2 portions of oily fish per week can help to improve brain memory, performance, and cognitive function. 

Marie Reynolds

Ocean EFA

Food Supplement

translation missing: en.products.product.sold_out
View Product Details
plus

3. Fermented foods

Since the gut and brain are intrinsically linked, how you care for your gut directly affects your mood. Fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut increase live bacteria in your gut, and therefore serotonin levels (although not all fermented foods are good sources of probiotics, e.g. wine, beer, and bread.) 

Now, you’ve heard the phrase “good bacteria” before right? It’s usually on yogurt adverts. Good bacteria in your gut play an essential role. They protect the lining of your intestines and ensure that there is a strong barrier against toxins (or “bad bacteria”) that can cause harm. They fight inflammation, improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food, and activate the neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain. If you’re not eating enough fermented food, then it would be worth taking a probiotic to support your gut health!

Zenii

Probiome Max

Food Supplement

£41.67
View Product Details
plus

4. Berries, Nuts & Seeds

“Blueberries are potent antioxidants which are excellent for brain health,” says Trotman. “[Although] remember to wash them before consuming, as these are some of the worst offenders for pesticide use.” Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, nuts, and seeds are great for warding off free radicals and protecting against oxidative stress that can lead to depression and other chronic diseases as well as the physical signs of aging like fine lines, dullness, sagging, and wrinkles. They protect cells from damage. 

Nutri Gold

Golden Flaxseed Oil

Food Supplement

translation missing: en.products.product.sold_out
View Product Details
plus

5. Dark Chocolate

You read that right – chocolate has mood-boosting benefits (just don’t eat the whole sharing bar to yourself in one night.). “Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, which is often lacking in western diets. Magnesium has wonderful neurological properties. In addition, dark chocolate is high in antioxidants which fight off free radicals in the brain,” shares Trotman. It releases feel-good compounds including caffeine that have been linked to improved mood. Health-promoting flavonoids have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and boost brain health. 

Since milk chocolate contains added ingredients like fat and sugar, dark chocolate is your best bet – it’s high in flavonoids and low in added sugar. One or two squares of 80%+ cacao-level chocolate per serving should be enough though – it’s still high in calories. Plus, chocolate has a high hedonic rate meaning its pleasurable taste, texture and smell promote a good mood – although you didn't need us to tell you that, did you? 

If you haven’t got a sweet tooth, daily magnesium and caffeine supplements can help you to feel more energized too. 

Nutri Gold

Magnesium Citrizorb®

Food Supplement

£9.81
View Product Details
plus

6. B vitamin-rich foods

“B6 vitamins are essential for the production of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA,” says Trotman. While serotonin makes you happy, dopamine encourages feelings of pleasure, plus learning and memory, and GABA encourages feelings of calm. 

B vitamins help us to get or make energy from the food we’re eating. Sometimes a lack of B vitamins in our diet can cause us to feel tired, lethargic, fatigued, or even depressed. Foods such as whole grains, eggs, fish, milk, leafy greens, beans, and peas are all excellent sources of B vitamins. 

Radomski shares how B vitamins can be especially useful during the menstruation cycle too. “I work with people struggling with common PMS symptoms, like cravings and mood swings, that typically show up during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.” 

“I always recommend clients incorporate foods rich in vitamin B6 during this time and many report feeling less moody and more energized. Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, is a necessary cofactor in the synthesis of our feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, and deficiencies are linked with depression, irritability, and sleep disturbances. Foods rich in vitamin B6 include bananas, beef, chicken, salmon, garlic, nuts, spinach, and sweet potatoes,” advises Radomski. 

Nutri Gold

Multi B Complex

Food Supplement

£12.01
View Product Details
plus

7. Amino acids, fiber & iron-rich foods

Serotonin can’t be made without the amino acid, tryptophan, which is found in bananas, eggs, walnuts, milk, chicken, turkey, fish, and cheese. 

To keep us feeling mentally energized, we need a sufficient amount of glucose. Glucose comes from carbohydrates that include fruit, vegetables, potatoes, bread, cereals, sugars (but always choose unrefined and high quality where possible), and lactose in milk. 

When it comes to influencing those feel-good vibes through our gut health, we know that eating a variety of vegetables is important, along with whole wheat, whole grains, and fiber. Fiber helps your slow digestion of carbohydrates allowing for a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream to keep your energy levels stable. People who eat fiber for breakfast report better mood and energy levels overall. Balancing blood sugar levels is important for stabilizing mood swings and irritability. 

While you can get your fiber fix from lots of whole grains, oats are particularly nutritious because they’re high in iron too. Iron supports healthy energy levels. 

Zenii

Superfoods

Food Supplement

£41.67
View Product Details
plus

What should we eat if we need an instant boost in energy?

“We should avoid sugar-rich foods as these will spike your blood sugar which will then drop, leaving you tired, irritable and craving more sweet things. The gold standard is a balanced snack containing protein, good fats, and fiber. However, sometimes a spoonful of almond butter will do nicely!” says Trotman. 

Food is fuel

While many of us believe that our anger, anxiety, irritability, lack of focus, or depression is down to our external environment or situation, it turns out we could be looking in the wrong direction. 

Our bodies are like cars. Without the right fuel, we can become slow, some of our parts stop working and as a last resort, we break down. Fuel your body with a wide variety of delicious nutrient-rich foods and supplements that deliver all the goodness that we need, notice an uplift in mood, a boost in energy, and look forward to feeling your best!