Foods that can help boost the mood

In the winter months, the days are shorter and often daylight is far from bright and this can have a significant effect on people’s moods.

However, what we eat and drink can have a noticeable impact on the mood and there is scientific evidence for this.

According to the mental health charity, Mind, it is important to eat regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly will help to keep the body’s sugar levels steady. Slow-release energy foods include pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.

They recommend getting a good start to the day with breakfast but then instead of a large lunch and dinner to try eating smaller portions spaced out more regularly throughout the day.

Protein is particularly important for the amino acids they contain, which make up the chemicals the brain needs to regulate thoughts and feelings. Protein is contained in lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.

It is equally important to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids which can improve concentration and help with thinking clearly.

Dieticians regularly include the following in their lists of mood-boosting foods:

Oily fish, like Salmon and Tuna, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which the body cannot produce and contribute to the fluidity of the brain’s cell membrane and appear to play key roles in brain development and cell signalling.

Dark chocolate: this contains a number of so-called “feel good compounds” including health-promoting flavonoids, which have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation.

Fermented foods: no, not alcohol(!), this is foods like kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut, that may improve gut health and mood.

Bananas: they are high in Vitamin B6 which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

Oats: rich in fibre to slow digestion of carbs, allowing for a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream to keep energy levels stable.

Berries: linked with lower rates of depression. They contain a wide range of antioxidants and phenolic compounds, which play a key role in combatting oxidative stress — an imbalance of harmful compounds in the body.

Nuts and seeds: high in plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fibre. They also provide tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds, are sources.

Coffee: either caffeinated or decaffeinated prevents a naturally occurring compound called adenosine from attaching to brain receptors that promote tiredness and increases the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.