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6 of the Best Mood-Boosting Foods
Feeling down in the dumps? We asked chef and nutritionist, Olivier Sanchez, to share his top tips for foods that can boost our mood
Goat milk kefir is rich in tryptophan, which is an all-important precursor of our ‘happy’ hormone, serotonin. Serotonin acts as a chemical messenger in our brain that influences our mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, sexual desire and function, and other social behaviour. As a fermented food, kefir is an ideal source of probiotics (friendly bacteria) and the gut, where the probiotics inhabit, is known as our second brain and is a major site for serotonin production.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds provide a complete source of protein and are extremely rich in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. These seeds are a useful source of prebiotics which feed our gut bacteria and are demulcent, meaning they protect the gut lining. Chronic constipation and dysbiosis (when there is an imbalance of microorganisms in our gut) can lead to reabsorption of wastes and toxins. A slow bowel and poor elimination of toxins is linked to low mood, stress and depression; a shorter transit time reduces reabsorption of toxins in the bowel. Chia seeds help to clean and boost the digestive system by stimulating waste removal through the bowel.
Saffron (crocus sativus) shows promise for providing significant antidepressant effects without the unwanted side effects of medication. Use a good pinch of dried whole stigmas (pistils) in your cooking, as powdered saffron may be adulterated. Herbalists may suggest taking a tincture, a liquid extract taken under the tongue, so it enters the bloodstream quickly. This would provide a stronger, more concentrated therapeutic dose, which is not recommended during pregnancy.
4. Maca Powder
Maca is an adaptogen which helps the body to cope with stress. It provides our bodies with minerals such as magnesium and calcium, and is rich in vitamins B, E and C. It may relieve symptoms of fatigue as well as lifting your mood (it’s not recommended for adrenal fatigue as it can be too stimulating) and it should be used in an on-and-off fashion (try taking some everyday for one month with one month off in between) or use sporadically, when a little boost is needed.
5. Red Peppers
When we are feeling low or under stress, our body uses antioxidants like vitamin C to counteract the stress-induced damage from oxidation and free-radicals. Red peppers are a great source of vitamin C and other antioxidants, they give our body just what it needs during a time of stress. Vitamin C is water-soluble so our bodies cannot store it, which is why we must consume it regularly. Plus, higher vitamin C intake is also linked with improved health and emotional state.
Dark chocolate polyphenols have been shown to increase mood and stimulate feelings of wellbeing and relaxation. As well as promoting positive mood, those who add it to their diet show reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, in their urine. However, dark chocolate also contains caffeine which can exacerbate stress-related insomnia or irritability and can encourage dependence, so it’s best used for an occasional boost – very little will suffice!
It is important to remember that optimum nutrition, as a whole, is key to how we feel and how we handle stress. Choosing organic food will reduce the toxins going into your body, and this can also help lift mood.
Private chef and nutritionist Olivier Sanchez lectures on the CNM Natural Chef Diploma Course. CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) train students in a wide range of natural therapies, for more information visit naturopathy-uk.com
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