It's January and we're all stuck at home in lockdown, so finding one's inner cheer is a little tough right now. One way of getting those positive vibes back is through our diet – eating certain foods really can lift our spirits.
Nutritionist Elizabeth Stewart for vitl.com has revealed the best and most surprising foods to help support your mood this January to keep you feeling lively.
"According to new research, your mood depends on the food you eat and what you should eat changes as you get older." Elizabeth says.
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“As we age, our dietary preferences evolve according to our lifestyle and variety of other factors. When comparing dietary practices in young adults (18-29) compared to older adults (30 years+), one study revealed how this differentially influences mental health."
Mood in young adults appears to be influenced by meat consumption and exercise, while in mature adults, the level of oxidants in our body increases, which can lead to a higher risk of mental distress. Therefore, antioxidant foods such as fruits like blueberries are recommended.
Mature adults should avoid food that activates the 'stress response' such as coffee and sugary foods.
Here are 5 surprising foods to boost your mood:
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that provides tryptophan - a precursor of serotonin (the happy hormone), which is needed to regulate our mood, appetite, sleep, libido, and memory.
It also contains Vitamin B12 which maintains healthy red blood cells and DNA production which is essential for energy. Kefir is known as a synbiotic food, containing pre and probiotics. Prebiotics are needed to “feed” our gut bacteria (probiotics) that help keep our gut healthy.
The gut is the main site of serotonin production so it's a good idea to keep it in a happy place. We also need a healthy gut for optimum absorption of the nutrients in our food.
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For years the spice saffron has been known to regulate levels of neurotransmitters in the brain (think serotonin and dopamine). This makes saffron a natural antidepressant, anxiety reliever and sleep promoter.
It is recommended that it should be consumed in whole stigma form as powder versions may be weaker and lack its powerful properties.
High-grade peppermint oil can be consumed and used externally. This makes its therapeutic properties versatile and almost immediate - mentally and physically.
Peppermint oil has proven wonders for mood, stress and anxiety relief, which encourages mental clarity and energy. Try it in dressings, desserts, drinks, salt scrubs, face masks or any other delights you can think of!
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Chicory contains high levels of inulin, a fabulous prebiotic that feeds the probiotic good bacteria in our gut. As mentioned earlier, the gut is the main site of serotonin production, so a healthy gut is vital for balanced brain chemicals. Inulin assists with the production of our appetite-controlling hormones, preventing overeating and reducing lethargy and bloating.
Chicory also contains beta-Carotene, a fabulous antioxidant that promotes brain cell production, protects cells against free radical damage and prevents cognitive decline.
The vegetable helps to increase the efficient production of dopamine and serotonin for mood, anxiety and stress management and enhances brain function, concentration, and long-term memory.
Chicory root has traditionally been used in tea or in medicinal remedies to aid acid reflux disease, indigestion and heartburn.
Matcha contains more L-Theanine than any other superfood. L-Theanine assists with serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine transmission and production, enhancing mood, focus, and memory.
L-Theanine also triggers alpha waves which are what make us feel focused, alert and full of energy. This quality makes Matcha a fabulous "pick me up" caffeine replacement, giving us the lift without the jittery, wired feeling that some of us get from coffee.