Food to fuel a positive mindset

It’s no secret that our diet plays an important role for our health and wellbeing. But did you know certain foods can also influence our mood? 

With more than 4 million Australians suffering from mental illness each year, there’s no denying we could all benefit from incorporating more of these mood-boosting foods in our diet. Here, Accredited Practising Dietitian Kamyra La Fauci shares some of the top foods that may help combat the blues and boost your mood – according to science. 

 

Oily fish  

Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are all great sources of omega-3s, an essential fatty acid that’s crucial for our brain, nervous system and for cell growth. According to research, omega-3s may reduce the symptoms of anxiety, depression and also lower the risk of developing them in the first instance.  Plus, fish is also a great source of B12, a vitamin known to produce mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.  

As our bodies cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, they must be consumed through the foods we eat, or from supplements. To reap the mood boosting benefits, aim to consume oily fish 2-3 times each week. 

 

Yoghurt and fermented foods  

Foods like yoghurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut (particularly shelf varieties) all contain probiotics, which are live microorganisms known as ‘beneficial bacteria’. Probiotics not only improve digestion and build immunity, but also support the growth of good bacteria in our gut (aka our microbiome). 

How does this influence mood? Put simply, our gut and brain communicate with each other (aka the gut-brain axis) by the vagus nerve and by chemical signals called neurotransmitters. Research has shown that eating probiotic foods not only support gut health but can also influence our brain and overall mood by improving symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Pretty fascinating, right?  

So next time you’re at the shops, be sure to add these mood boosters to your shopping cart. Note: not all fermented foods have this effect – unfortunately beer and wine don’t count! 

 

Fruits and vegetables 

Fruit and veggies offer a number of health benefits, so it’s no surprise they’ve been linked to lower rates of stress, depression, and other mood disorders as well. While it’s not completely understood, researchers believe it could be the antioxidants responsible for elevating mood. Regardless, fruit and veggies are also a great source of vitamins and minerals plus they’re also a great fibre source to support a healthy gut. When it comes to boosting mood, some standout fruit and veg to add to your shopping list include bananas, berries, and dark leafy veg such as rocket, Bok choy or kale. 

 

Nuts and seeds 

Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses, rich in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fibre. According to research, it turns out they’re also great for our mood, too! In a 10-year study containing over 15000 participants, those who consumed a moderate intake of nuts were found to have a 23 per cent lower risk of depression.  

Plus, they’re also a great source of tryptophan – especially almonds, cashews and walnuts – an amino acid needed to produce serotonin; a chemical known to boost mood. 

 

In summary, there are a number of foods you can add to your diet to boost your mood, and overall health. This said, it’s always important to also take care of your mood and mental health by managing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly and also seeking support from your GP when needed. 

 

By Kamyra La Fauci – Senior Accredited Practising Dietitian at Heart Smart 

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