Good Mood Food
According to scientists today is Blue Monday, allegedly the most depressing day of the year. Pseudoscience? Probably but feeling down and in a low mood can affect anyone, any day of the year. Whilst many factors can affect mood, food is unlikely to be your first thought. But think again as food can impact neurotransmitter production affecting how we feel.
Neurotransmitters send messages to and from the brain. When they are out of balance, mood can be flat with low levels and emotions can be affected with high levels. Amino acids, from proteins, are important in the production of neurotransmitters, many of which can only be obtained through the diet. The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursors of the stress hormones dopamine, noradrenalin and adrenaline which act as neurotransmitters. Food sources include: fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy, almonds, avocados, bananas, sesame & pumpkin seeds, wheatgerm, oats and chocolate. This is why eating chocolate often makes us feel good.
Serotonin, important in mood and feelings, is produced from tryptophan. Sources include eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish, bananas, beans and lentils. Serotonin is then converted into melatonin, an important chemical in the sleep cycle. Methionine, found in eggs, fish, meat and poultry, is important in the synthesis of neurotransmitters via the methyl cycle. Supporting nutrients, specifically B vitamins are also essential for this process.
Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter supporting memory, concentration and focus. Choline is required for its production and dietary sources include eggs, dairy; skimmed milk, low fat yogurt and cottage cheese, chicken/beef livers, fish; cod, salmon and shrimps, wholewheat, Brussels sprouts and brocolli.
Essential fatty acids, known as omega 3 & 6, are important for cells to function efficiently and effectively. As they cannot be made in the body, diet is their main source; nuts, seeds, fish and eggs. Specifically, omega 3 EPA & DHA are important in development of the central nervous system, support neurological function and contribute to normal brain function. Oily fish is an important source of both.
Spicy foods containing cayenne pepper produce endorphins which can help raise mood. Conversely, mood swings are a possible reported side effect of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavour enhancer widely found in processed foods. There is also growing research into depression and vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D may be a factor that contributes to a depressed mood.
It isn’t only food that affects how we feel. If our digestive system isn’t working well, proteins may not be broken down efficiently and fail to get into our body. Stress uses up vital nutrients to produce the stress hormones, affects our blood sugar levels and impacts the balance of our sex hormones, all affecting our mood.
Our diet can impact on how we feel. Rebalancing our neurotransmitters will help encourage improved sleep, increased energy, reduce mood swings & sugar cravings and improve our sense of wellbeing.