What we eat plays a crucial role in our moods, emotions and mental state. From 'feelgood' nutrients that increase the body's natural production of serotonin to chemicals that trigger depression and mood swings, here's how to ensure you get the right balanced diet to keep your moods on an even keel.
Research shows that certain foods we eat everyday could be triggering a chemical imbalance in the brain, which can contribute towards depression and mood swings.
Scientists have found that inflammation in the brain plays a significant role in causing depression. Cytokines, a natural chemical which causes inflammation, is provoked by certain foods and can cause symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia and fatigue - all factors that could lead to depression.
"When researchers came up with the term, 'brain chemical imbalance' to explain depression, the next step should have been to supply the brain with nutrients," explains Carolyn Dean, from the Nutritional Magnesium Association. "However, chemicals are prescribed instead."
The following nutrients are known for their mood-boosting properties.
- Magnesium - Serotonin, the feel good hormone, relies on this for its production. Foods that boost magnesium intake include halibut, tuna but if you're not keen on fish, you can get the essential depression-beating vitamin in artichokes, bananna's and dried figs. Adding almonds, brown rice and pine nuts to your diet also helps increase your levels of magnesium
- Low-fat proteins - Lower in fat and help build up essential amino acids. You don't have to eat red meat to get your adequate low-fat protein intake. Soy foods like soy nuts and tofu are a great source of low-fat protein. Also try low-fat dairy drinks and foods like probiotic yoghurts and cottage cheese
- Omega-3 - These healthy fatty acids contribute towards healthy, balanced levels of serotonin. Fish lovers will find it easy to boost omega-3 levels in their diet, with cold water fishes like tuna, sardines, trout, herring and swordship being the best sources of omega-3.
- Vitamin B - Vitamin B is essential for healthy brains. Stock up on folate, B12 and B6. Fish and meat eaters will find it easiest to eat B vitamin-rich foods with shellfish, liver, mackerel, salmon and lean fat-trimmed beef being the richest sources. However, cheese and eggs also have high levels of B vitamins in them, including Riboflavin vitamin.
To avoid undoing all the good work and counteracting your mood-enhancing diet, nutritionist Kirsten Brooks BSc Hons, DN Med, from Eat Yourself To Health, suggests the mood-lowering foods you should avoid.