If you are feeling down in the dumps and feel like your nervous system is teetering on the edge, making a few simple dietary changes could have you feeling full of bean in no time (quite literally!)
What we eat on a daily basis not only affects our physical wellbeing, it can play a significant role in helping to manage anxiety levels, depression and our mental health in general. Research and studies suggest that the following foods and nutrients may help ease anxiety, manage stress and may even play a big role in fighting off depression.
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Omega 3 fatty acids
Some studies1 are suggesting that Omega 3 fatty acids may be helpful in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Omega 3 plays an important role in brain function as it contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is typically low in the blood levels of those suffering depression.
Omega 3 can be found in oily fish, (sardines, salmon, tuna etc.) and in liquid supplements. Fish oil quality can vary greatly so do your research on good quality fish oils. Fish oil should be stored in the fridge to prevent rancidity of the oil.
B12 is needed when forming red blood cells, the same cells that carry oxygen through the body and is an essential part of a healthy nervous system. It is also used in the formation of serotonin; a mood boosting neurotransmitter so it is no surprise that depression2 has been associated with low levels of B12.
B12 is found in shellfish, eggs, milk, cheese, red meat and fish. Given the food based source of B12 is usually animal derived; B12 deficiency is quite common in vegans. You can also get a B12 supplement but again make sure it is of good quality.
Folate or vitamin B9 like B12 is utilised in the formation of red blood cells and affects neurotransmitters that impact mood.
Folate is found in green leafy veg (broccoli and spinach), beans, lentils and citrus. It also can be taken as a supplement in the form of folic acid which is converted in the body to folate.
This nonessential amino acid is used in serotonin synthetization and serotonin is a mood regulator and essential in producing healthy sleep. Tryptophan is found in almost all protein rich foods namely; nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, bananas, lentils, and eggs.
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Iodine is an important mineral that is required to keep the thyroid gland healthy. The thyroid gland controls almost every cell in the body by regulating metabolism so if we are lacking in iodine this can affect brain function, mood and concentration.
Rich sources of Iodine can be found in seaweed and sea vegetables, dulse flakes and iodine fortified foods and salt.
Good carbohydrates such whole grains, legumes, fruits and veg can also help with mood as they aid in the absorption of tryptophan.
Tryptophan is found in protein sources along with other amino acids, some of which are better passing to the brain from the bloodstream. Carbohydrates eliminate some of the competition from these other amino acids thereby aid tryptophan absorption in the brain.
Get a daily dose of sunshine. Sunlight helps us produce Vitamin D which helps to keep our mood happy. When vitamin D levels drop we can feel tearful or depressed.
Vitamin D can also be found in mushrooms fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and supplements.
Including a variety of these mood busting nutrients and foods in your diet can play a significant role in improving your mental health and wellbeing and can have you feeling fit and fabulous in no time. If you are noticing however that anxiety or a low mood is impacting your daily life do seek help from a health care professional as in some cases further treatment and professional counselling may be required.