Eating the Right Foods and Exercising Can Boost your Mood
The mood-boosting meal plan
7.30am – Breakfast
Porridge and milk sprinkled with walnuts
Why?Milk is rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which your body converts into serotonin – the 'happiness hormone'. To jump-cut from bleary Neanderthal to beaming go-getter you need carbs, which speed up your body’s absorption of tryptophan. "Porridge oats are a slow release carbohydrate which will also help to keep your blood sugar (and therefore your mood) more balanced," says Lisa Blair, founder of theLondon Nutrition Clinic. Finish by sprinkling with walnuts,recently crowned the healthiest nut in the world, for a hit of Omega 3 fats. A 2011 study published in the journalNature Neurosciencefound Omega 3 fortifies your brain chemistry against the blues.
Bliss bonusDown a glass of orange juice to ramp up your morning grin even further. “It’s rich in inositol, a chemical which regulates both serotonin and insulin levels, resulting in fewer mood swings and relief from depression,” says Blair.
11am – Happy snack
Hit a mid-morning high with a banana. “It’s full of tryptophan and fructose – a fruit sugar which increases insulin production to aid transport of the amino acid through your body,” says Emma Wells, founder ofSmart Nutrition.
1.30pm – Lunch
Tuna, sweetcorn, spinach and quinoa salad
Why?To be happier, you need B vitamins. A recentAlternative Medicine Reviewstudy found around 20% of depressed people were deficient in vitamin B6. “It’s an essential cofactor for the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin,” explains Blair. Tuna is loaded with the stuff, so pile it on a nutrient-dense medley of sweetcorn, spinach and quinoa. This glee-inducing trio delivers a therapeutic dose of vitamin B1 (sweetcorn), which aPsychopharmacologystudy found boosts mood and reduces anxiety, and a big hit of the chemical betaine (quinoa and spinach). “This aids the production of several brain chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin, and hence can improve mood, energy, alertness, concentration, and visual clarity,” says Blair.
Bliss bonusSoundtrack your snaffling with some upbeat tunes to crowbar more of that Friday feeling into bleak Monday afternoons. A recent study published in the journalNature Neurosciencefound listening to your favourite music triggers the production of dopamine – and the more you like the song, the greater the hormonal spike. Probably best to give Radiohead a miss, though.
3pm – Happy snack
Grab a handful of Brazil nuts. They’re the richest natural source of the mineral selenium – just six provide your RDA – which a study published inThe Journal of Trace Elements in Experimental Medicinefound significantly boosts confidence and clear-headedness.
7pm – Dinner
Lamb with roast butternut squash and green beans
Why?After storming through work on a healthy high, you’ll be keen to maintain a chirpy demeanour through the evening. Blast away the mental fogginess that can descend after a hard day’s graft by choosing lamb for dinner. “It’s bursting with vitamin B12, which plays a major role in the production of myelin sheath: the coating around nerve cells which aids their communication,” says Blair. Pair your favourite cut of meat with zinc-filled butternut squash and magnesium-rich green beans. Not only is zinc vital for the production of serotonin, but researchers at The Polish Academy of Science found it triggers the release of BDNF, a brain chemical which wards off depression and protects nerve cells. Magnesium deficiency can cause anxiety, restlessness and insomnia, so hoover up your greens to stay in the pink.
Bliss bonusA yoghurt before bed will deliver a final dose of tryptophan plus a hit of calming calcium, triggering your body’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin – so you get to sleep fast and wake up still smiling.
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