Food To Boost Your Mood

In challenging situations when stress and anxiety levels are likely to be higher, it is important to do what you can to support your body and mind.  What we consume on a daily basis has a profound impact on how we feel, more so than many realise. Food can help us to not only function better physically, but also mentally too.

Nutrition can impact your mood in several ways. Let’s explore the gut-brain connection…

Gut Brain Connection

The gut is often called the second brain and for good reason.  There are more active neurons in your gut than your spinal cord, and we all know how important that is for human functioning.  We all have our own unique microbiome (gut environment) and the gut and brain are constantly communicating with each other and how you feel in one can positively and negatively impact the other. The gut/brain axis allows us to understand to a greater extent the connection between diet, depression and anxiety. 

So now that we know our mood and food are linked, what can we do and what should we eat? Wellbeing Coach & Nutrition Specialist Dom shares his top tips to help boost your mood, using food.

Reduce your junk food

“When we eat foods that are hyper-palatable (a mixture of sugar, fat, starch and salt) our brains release a chemical called dopamine,” Dom says. “Dopamine release makes us feel good, which is why many find it hard to resist snacking on such food. There’s nothing wrong with junk food in moderation, however at times when activity levels are lowered and stress/anxiety levels are raised, we need to ensure we are fuelling our body and mind with more wholesome and nutrient dense foods. Temporary highs from eating junk ultimately lead to either eating more to recreate that feeling, or feelings of guilt having just consumed it. Try switching your junk food snacks to fresh fruit or vegetables, to ensure your body can get the nutrients it needs.”

Eat foods high in tryptophan

The amino acid tryptophan helps us to produce the hormone serotonin (the happy hormone).  More research needs to be conducted regarding the impact of tryptophan levels on brain serotonin production, but there is no harm in aiming to boost your own levels as it is an essential amino acid.

Certain foods are higher in tryptophan including – 

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Oats
  • Whey powder
  • Turkey
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu

All these foods have one thing in common – they all contain protein which are made of amino acids.  Some of the above are complete proteins (contain all 9 essential amino acids) and some are incomplete, but all can potentially increase your tryptophan levels.

Combine Protein & Carbohydrates

Wellbeing Coach Dom says, “Whey powder is a cheap, convenient and high quality source of protein.  It is something that has been wrongly labelled purely for those who lift weights.  Whey is something that can be easily obtained and in my opinion is good to have around the house, especially during this time due to it being a low calorie source of protein, but also something that has a very long shelf life.  Of all the foods listed above, whey is probably one of the highest tryptophan containing foods.

By combining protein with carbohydrates you can achieve better tryptophan absorption into the brain.  Eating carbohydrates causes you to release insulin, which promotes amino acid absorption. Therefore combining carbs and tryptophan rich protein works well.  For example, I make protein oats by cooking oats and then adding whey protein to it when cooked. This gives me a great high protein start to my day.”