This is a guest post by one of our Gut Geek coaches, Naomi Langford-Archer. Naomi is a qualified nutritional therapist specialising in gut health who gets outstanding results for our coaching clients.
Beat the blues with foods to boost your mood! The gut-brain connection is incredibly strong and with the right know-how we can harness it to lift our mood and stabilise our emotions.
Much research has been undertaken on the impact your diet can have on your mood and mental health. There are certain superfoods which have been shown to have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.
Before we get to that it’s just as important to concentrate on what you don’t eat, as what you do.
What not to eat
If you’re serious about boosting your mental state, then consider cutting out all:
1. PROCESSED FOODS – with all the nutrients removed and toxins added in their place, processed foods are a drag on your body and mind.
3. WHEAT – if you suffer with anxiety and depression then it’s worth removing gluten, at least for a while, as it has been linked to a greater risk of anxiety and depression.
Mood Boosting Superfoods
Try adding in as many of these foods as you can to you diet for maximum mood-boosting goodness!
1. OILY FISH – Wild Alaskan salmon, anchovies and sardines. These oily fish are high in the omega-3 essential fatty acid called EPA.
Studies have shown that patients given a high dose of EPA showed a significant reduction in anxiety compared to those receiving a placebo.
Even in individuals who don’t struggle with anxiety, when taking a high dose of EPA they appear to feel happier and in a better state to cope with stress.
Increasing your omega-3 intake from eating quality oily fish or taking a recommended supplement, can reduce anxiety and depression and improve your happiness levels.
2. TRYPTOPHAN RICH FOODS – Eggs, spirulina, sunflower seeds, poultry and oats are all high in the amino acid, tryptophan.
Tryptophan is the precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which contributes to our feelings of well-being and happiness, also called the ‘happiness hormone’.
3. GREEN LEAFY VEGEATBLES – spinach, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard. These are all rich in the B vitamin, folate, low levels of which are linked to depression. Opt for organic where possible.
4. VITAMIN B12 – fish, meat, poultry and eggs are good sources.
Vegans therefore need to supplement with quality methylated B12.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in your serotonin (happy hormone) production and low levels of B12 have been linked to depression. B12 deficiency can result from a low dietary intake as well as a limited ability to absorb the vitamin.
Something called Intrinsic Factor is essential for absorption of B12. Intrinsic Factor is produced by cells in the stomach lining but if levels are low then B12 blood levels will more than likely be low too.
If you are concerned about your levels, B12 testing can be carried out.
5. DARK CHOCOLATE – 80% cocoa or more. Dark chocolate is high in flavanols which are great for your brain, and the darker the better.
Flavanols have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties helping to reduce memory loss, regulate your mood and help with depression.
6. KOMBUCHA – is a fermented fizzy tea that contains beneficial bacteria that promote optimal gut health. This in turn is linked to improved mental health.
Any kind of live fermented food such as kombucha helps to regulate the gut-brain connection. The result is an increased feeling of wellbeing due to the extra mood-boosting neurotransmitters that the gut produces such as serotonin and dopamine.
As well as all these fantastic qualities, kombucha also contains high levels of B vitamins, particularly B12 which contributes to overall mental wellbeing.
If you are vegetarian or vegan then Kombucha is a great source of B12 for you.
With a little knowledge and some dietary changes, we can hack our Gut Brain Connection, making us more positive and resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
For more on this topic take a look at Brain Health Begins In the Gut