We’ve probably all heard the phrase “eating our feelings”, more often than not in a negative context. But there is certainly something to be said for the comfort that food can bring.
Food can be one of the best mood boosters out there and, whilst the relationship between food and mental health is one which is still revealing itself, there are certain foods which can help to promote a better, happier mood whilst also offering other health benefits!
When I’m feeling down, or if the changes in the seasons make me feel a little low, I usually turn to food. Once upon a time, that may have been takeaways and high calorie snacks, but now it’s more whole foods - and I’m here to show you exactly how you can eat your feelings for a mood boost!
There are numerous reasons why a square or two of dark chocolate might give your mood a bit of a boost. The first is the sugar content, which is a source of fuel for the brain, and compounds such as caffeine and theobromine, which all play a part in helping us to feel good.
Dark chocolate is also high in compounds called flavonoids. These have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and boost brain health, which might all contribute to a better mood (Tuenter, Foubert and Pieters, 2018).
Let’s not forget that dark chocolate tastes, smells and feels good, which is also shown to improve mood, and has less sugar and fat than milk or white chocolate, making it the healthier option too!
Eating more fruit is linked to lower levels of depression. Berries in particular are high in a compound called anthocyanins, which have also been linked to lower levels of depression, as well as holding antioxidant properties, preventing the oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals in the body (Olas, 2018).
Nuts and seeds:
One of the best possible snacks for boosting your mood, nuts and seeds are high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps the body to synthesise serotonin, that wonderful mood boosting compound! They’re also full of healthy fats, fibre and proteins, all of which are vital for our wellbeing, be that physical or mental (Strasser, Gostner and Fuchs, 2016).
Kimchi, and other fermented foods:
Fermented foods play a huge role in helping to keep our gut healthy. More importantly, fermented foods can help to keep the bacteria in our gut balanced, which is thought to play a vital role in our mental health.
Foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are all full of healthy, helpful bacteria which can help to support the growth of good bacteria in your gut, and may even increase the gut’s production of serotonin. Most of your body’s serotonin is produced by your gut which has earned it the moniker “the second brain”, and shows how gut health and mental health are intrinsically linked (O’Mahony et al., 2015).
If you hold a banana up to your face it can look like a smile, and these wonder fruits may just be responsible for helping you to keep on smiling. That’s because bananas are naturally high in Vitamin B6, which can help the body to synthesise dopamine and serotonin, both of which are responsible for mood (Clayton, 2006).
Who loves a bowl of porridge? Same, and it just might turn out that starting your day with something oaty can really set you up. Oats are high in fibre, which means that they can help to regulate the release of sugar into your bloodstream, keeping your blood sugar level stable throughout the day and preventing that horrible fog you might experience if your levels dip.
Stable blood sugar levels are important for mood regulation and preventing irritability, so an oaty breakfast can help to prevent you from getting ‘hangry’ right before lunch (Nabb and Benton, 2006)
Oats are also a great source of iron, and studies have shown that a lack of iron can encourage the onset of mood disorders, which makes oats an even better choice for breakfast! (Jáuregui-Lobera, 2014)
Sure, too much coffee can give you the jitters, but in the right quantities, it might just help you to feel happier.
Caffeine prevents a certain compound called adenosine from attaching itself to particular receptors in your brain. These receptors are the ones that can make you feel tired, which is why coffee can help you to feel more awake and alert. It can also help the body to stimulate the release of various mood-boosting chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine (Singh and McKintosh, 2019).
Vivo Life’s MAGIC Coffee goes one step further. We combine Ethiopian Arabica coffee blended with Lion’s Mane Mushroom to support mental clarity. It supports productivity, creativity and focus, and not only boosts mood, but can help to prevent the decline of cognitive function, which certainly makes me feel better!
Enjoy a hot cup in the morning with porridge topped with berries - and you’re likely to have a wonderful day!
O’Mahony, S.M., Clarke, G., Borre, Y.E., Dinan, T.G. and Cryan, J.F. (2015). Serotonin, tryptophan metabolism and the brain-gut-microbiome axis. Behavioural Brain Research, 277, pp.32–48. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.07.027.
Nabb, S.L. and Benton, D. (2006). The effect of the interaction between glucose tolerance and breakfasts varying in carbohydrate and fibre on mood and cognition. Nutritional Neuroscience, 9(3-4), pp.161–168. doi:10.1080/10284150600955099.