Smart fats - the omega 3 and 6 fats found in oily fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel), raw and unsalted nuts and seeds. The effect of omega 3 and 6 fats on brain health has been well researched. These fats play a critical part in the structure and function of the brain and therefore can directly affect our mood. But these fats cannot be made by the body, so they must form part of our daily diets. Aim to include some oily fish in your diet two to three times a week, and have a handful of nuts or seeds each day as a snack or sprinkled on your breakfast cereal or salad.
Complex carbohydrates - oats, brown rice, rye bread, pulses, vegetables. These foods help to stabilise our blood sugar levels – fluctuations in blood sugar can cause mood swings, irritability and depression. Complex carbohydrates also contain key brain boosting nutrients such as the B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Protein - eggs, fish, chicken, pulses, nuts, seeds, and red meat and dairy but in moderation. Protein is vital for good brain health and for maintaining blood sugar levels so include some at each meal.
Tryptophan – found in fish, chicken, turkey, oats, eggs, cheese and beans. Tryptophan is an amino acid (protein is broken down into amino acids), which our body converts into serotonin, our ‘feel good hormone’. If you want to boost your mood include some of the tryptophan foods in your diet every day.
Bad mood foods:
Sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine - white bread, pasta, cake, many breakfast cereals such as cornflakes, chocolate, fizzy drinks. Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, and knocking back the teas and coffees and booze can play havoc with blood sugar levels and ultimately lead to low mood. Diets based on refined foods can reduce your nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and the B vitamins, which are vital for good brain health.
Brain toxins - food additives or the presence of heavy metals in your system such as lead and mercury can affect brain health. Food intolerances can also play a part in depression and if you’re a sufferer it is well worth speaking to your nutritional therapist about following an elimination diet or carrying out testing to find the culprit foods. Heavy metals can be tested for using hair mineral analysis.
Saturated fat – found in meat and dairy products, and hydrogenated fats found in some margarines and processed foods. These fats interfere with the metabolism of your essential fats.