Feeling blue this Blue Monday? What you eat can make an enormous difference to your mood and even your risk of depression – your happiness diet starts here Annoyingly, it isn’t just low mood we have to worry about at this time of year, but also a lack of motivation, concentration and not to mention stress.
It’s no wonder January has a specific day that recognises how miserable we all feel – Blue Monday .
No one is quite certain about the scientific validity of Blue Monday as a concept.
In 2005 a social scientist was tasked by a travel company to come up with the most depressing day of the year. So he crunched some numbers based on the fact that we’re all at our most in debt, tired, lacking motivation and feeling guilty about falling off the wagon in our New Year’s Resolutions (already!) on the third Monday in January each year.
It was probably the most successful publicity stunt of all time because here we are 15 years later talking about it.
Now, even if you don’t believe the validity of Blue Monday, most of us don’t need a scientist to tell us our moods are pretty low at this time of year.
There’s the obvious mood boosters of course: exercise (boosts endorphins), getting outdoors (sun exposure on skin will boost your vitamin D levels and time in nature improves your wellbeing ) and meditation (lowers stress, and increases dopamine levels).
But when these all seem like too much of an effort – instead of wallowing in self pity and left over Christmas snacks, you can opt for certain foods that can boost your mood.
The food we eat can alter the levels of brain chemicals that contribute to mood such as dopamine and serotonin, that can result in changes in our emotions.
‘What you eat is not only critical for your body, but also for your mental and emotional health,’ says Nutritional Therapist Jenny Bodenham. ‘The food you consume supplies your brain with vital nutrients for optimum mental health’.
The saying ‘you are what you eat’ comes to mind here.
So, what are the brain chemicals (also known as neurotransmitters) that affect our mood and mental well-being and what can we do (or eat) to boost them? To find out which foods could help or hinder your mood, keep reading… #1 Boost serotonin levels with turkey (it’s not just for Christmas)
Do you often find yourself suffering a low mood on a daily basis? This is likely due to the fact that your everyday mood is governed by hormones and neurotransmitters which can have both a beneficial or negative effect on how you feel. Turkey can be a great mood booster, plus it might bring back some memories of Christmas – bonus ‘There are several different brain chemicals, and the one we hear most about is serotonin which is often termed the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter,’ Bodenham explains.
If you do find yourself struggling with low mood more often than you would like, you need to look into boosting your serotonin levels. ‘Serotonin and its pre-cursor 5-HTP (a form of amino acid l-tryptophan) supports and balances our mood, lifts our spirits and boosts our positivity,’ adds Bodenham.
When serotonin is released in the body it not only boosts your mood, it also provides you with a feeling of calm, resulting in reduced stress and anxiety. What’s more, serotonin regulates our ability to learn, improves memory and promotes sleep.
Serotonin also plays a part in influencing our sleep wake cycle by helping the body make the hormone melatonin. Both serotonin and melatonin are critical for sleep and having a well-functioning body clock.
So how do we boost our serotonin levels? Brain chemicals like serotonin need certain amino acids in order to be produced. Our bodies can make some of these, however we need to get most of them from our diets.
‘For serotonin production, we require l-tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that our body cannot produce by itself but it can be obtained from the food we eat,’ Bodenham explains.
There are many foods rich in L- tryptophan, and these include: poultry, especially turkey and chicken
seeds and nuts
dairy products, especially cottage cheese
fish/crab seaweed spinach dates eggs oats tofu L-trytophan is also high in nutrients that will help to improve mood such as; vitamin C, which supports nervous system function, magnesium to help boost your mood and vitamin B for hormonal regulation and nervous system support. #2 Stimulate dopamine levels with ripe bananas If you have lost your get up and go it may be that your dopamine (a brain chemical involved in increasing motivation and concentration), adrenaline and noradrenaline aren’t at optimum levels.‘Dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline are neurotransmitters that are made from the amino acid tyrosine, which helps boost motivation and drive as well as alertness,’ says Bodenham.Lack of concentration, general slowness, lack of motivation and energy are often found in those who also suffer from low mood or depression, all of which are also symptoms of low dopamine levels. Ripe bananas are the ultimate source of tyrosine, and by ripe we mean those that have the brown spots on their skin Indeed, one study in JAMA Psychiatry reported lower brain levels of dopamine in people who were suffering from clinical depression. Plus, another study has shown that supplementing with dopamine may be helpful in stress resistance.The amino acid tyrosine forms DOPA (dopaminergic cells), which is then converted into dopamine, and this, in turn, forms noradrenaline which produces adrenaline.Adrenaline is the hormone released when we are stressed and acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. When well-regulated, adrenaline is a positive messenger that makes your brain sharper and improves focus.However, when we are chronically stressed, the body will constantly pump out adrenaline and cortisol. Therefore too much adrenaline can lead to lowered adrenal function.So as well as upping your serotonin levels, you’ll need to stimulate your dopamine levels too by eating foods rich in amino acid tyrosine, such as: almonds banana chicken turkey cottage cheese […]