As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” While most of us are well aware that our diet plays a crucial role in our physical health, did you know that the food we eat directly affects our mental and emotional wellbeing too?
Link Between Diet and Mood
It turns out that there’s a strong connection between what we eat and how we feel. When we’re feeling down, it can be tempting to turn to sugary foods such as sweets or ice-cream to lift our spirits. While these foods can provide relief and make us feel good in the moment, we may end up being stuck in an endless cycle of unhealthy cravings. This can increase our risk for developing depression and anxiety, as well as other physical health issues.
Conversely, studies have suggested that a healthy and balanced diet that is rich in nutrients can actually improve our mood and overall sense of happiness for a sustained period of time .
5 Foods to Eat for a Mood Boost
So, if food plays a part in our mood, then what should we eat to feel our best? Here’s a quick guide:
1) Probiotic-rich foods
There’s lots of buzz recently surrounding probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, tempeh, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. These fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health, and support the production of dopamine in the gut. Studies in both animals and humans have found associations between balanced gut bacteria and better mood, less stress and a lower risk of depression .
2) Green Tea
If you’re having a hard day, a cup of green tea might be what you need to brighten your mood and calm your nerves. An amino acid called L-theanine, commonly found in green tea, can help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. A Japanese study found that drinking two to three cups of green tea per day was associated with a reduced risk of developing symptoms of depression in elderly individuals .
3) Omega-3 rich foods
Adding omega-3 rich foods like salmon, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts to your diet can help to lower anxiety and stress levels. In a study, it was found that students who took omega-3 supplements in the weeks leading up to an exam had lower levels of anxiety and inflammation compared to students who did not take the supplements . 4) Blueberries
Do not underestimate these small little blue soldiers. Packed with high amounts of antioxidants such as flavonoids, blueberries help to regulate mood, improve memory and even protect the brain from ageing in both children and young adults .
5) Dark Chocolate
We’ve all experienced it: the happiness that chocolate brings! And this is in fact backed by science. Dark chocolate contains chemicals that can help promote the production of "feel-good" chemicals in the brain, and reduce our levels of stress hormones . As with all foods, just be sure to enjoy it in moderation!
Healthy Eating Habits
Apart from what we eat, it’s also worth paying attention to how we eat. Incorporating healthier eating habits could go a long way in helping us develop a better relationship with food and manage our sugar cravings.
Here are a few simple tips: 1. Drink plenty of water: Stay hydrated and avoid consuming caffeine which can disrupt our sleep cycle, leading to feelings of anxiety and irritability during the day. 2. Watch portion sizes: Too much of anything isn’t good. Yes, even healthy foods can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Pay attention to portion size and use tools like measuring cups and food scales to help you stay on track. There are also macro tracking apps just in case you need to make things more convenient! 3. Practise mindful eating: Mindful eating is about tuning into our hunger cues, staying away from distractions and savouring the taste and texture of our food. For those who tend to eat for comfort or out of stress, mindful eating may even help with weight control. If you find yourself having unpredictable mood swings or feel easily irritated, try out some of these nutrition tips and start making healthier food choices! While certain foods may help boost your mood, they should not be relied upon as a sole treatment for mood disorders. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it's important to seek professional help from a mental health provider. About the Writer Jeannette Qhek is the Wellbeing Lead at Actxa Wellness, where she curates the wellness curriculum with relevant science-backed content. Extremely passionate about the psychology behind human behaviour, she is now pursuing her Master's in Counselling with Monash University. Her other passion is content creation, and she is part of Tiktok's team of Youth for Good Wellness Education. As part of this exciting journey, she created "Chill By Nette", an online wellness space to share her resources and learnings. Through sharing her voice and creativity, she hopes to make psychological concepts and wellness research knowledge more accessible and fun to the public. Connect more with Jeannette Qhek here ➡️ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeannetteqhek/
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