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Boost Your Mood With Food

As the daylight hours remain short and spring seems far away we may feel a little low, though did you know that what we eat can impact our mental-wellbeing? The power of food can improve not only our physical health but also our mood.

The SMILES trial, published in 2017, was the first study in the world to demonstrate that making dietary changes can be effective in improving the mental health of those living with depression. Previous studies had shown that higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and lower intakes of highly processed and sugary foods were consistently associated with better mental health outcomes.

The SMILES trial, being a gold standard randomly controlled trial, saw the further benefit of following a modified Mediterranean Style Diet. So, based on this trial there may be certain foods that help our mood and mental well-being such as:-

  • Nuts and Seeds – these tiny powerhouses are loaded with essential nutrients that can enhance our cognitive abilities and support overall brain health. With a small handful as a snack, a sprinkle on our breakfast, having a nut butter on toast or choosing a seeded wholemeal bread they may contribute to brain function. We can choose from brazils, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios in the nut world and seeds include sunflower, poppy, sesame, linseeds and pumpkin.

  • Oily Fish – they tend to be a great source of essential Omega 3 fatty acids. Our brains need them to function and as our bodies can’t make them ourselves we must get them from our diet. Part of the Omega 3 family, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) play a particularly important role in the brain as they form the brain cell membranes. Whether fresh, frozen, smoked, or tinned we should look to include salmon, sardines, trout, whitebait, mackerel, pilchards, herring in our diet. Eat them on toast, as a pate, in fish pie, Mediterranean style stew, risotto, paella or simply bake and serve with roasted veggies and potatoes.

  • Leafy Greens – brimming with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants these nutrient dense plants may help the brain to function at its best. Spinach, watercress, rocket and varieties of lettuce are available washed and bagged and can be quickly added to our sandwich, served alongside a filled jacket potato and omelette or dressed and eaten as a ‘starter’ at dinner time. Also, spinach and other leafy greens like cabbage, spring greens, bok choy and kale can be served alongside a main meal or added to a stir-fry, soup or pasta sauce.

There is current interest in links between mood and the gut microbiome (the trillions of bacteria resident in the human colon) often refereed to as the gut-brain axis. It is thought a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics may support brain function and mood.

As we eat several times a day there are many opportunities to select foods that support our overall brain well-being and mood every day.

If this interests you I can help you boost your gut microbiome and mood by adapting your diet or supplementing for a period of time.

Happy eating,

Nina Thomas

Registered Associate Nutritionist

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