Of course, we all know that eating healthy is great for your overall health, but did you know that you can also use food to help regulate your emotions and improve your moods? Whether you’re feeling ill, tired, depressed, or stressed, choosing the right foods can help you get back to feeling and performing your best.
For those in recovery from illness or addiction, introducing good nutrition and mindful eating habits as part of a strong self-care and well-being plan will be hugely beneficial. 5 Easy Ways You Can Use Food to Improve Mood is part of my Simple Self-care series.
‘We mustn’t underestimate the importance of food in terms of mood regulation and overall well-being.’ – Laurann O’Reilly, Nutrition Expert
Laurann O’Reilly, owner of Nutrition By Laurann, is a nutritionist with a BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Nottingham and a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from UCD. She has over 12 years of experience helping clients reach their full potential through nutrition and offers personalised one-to-one nutrition packages and corporate nutrition talks. She is also a member of the Women’s Inspire Network and writes weekly nutrition columns in national media.
Laurann says ‘we mustn’t underestimate the importance of food in terms of mood regulation and overall well-being, particularly at this time of the year when seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is prevalent. For example, vitamin D is involved in regulating the production of serotonin. As our bodies produce vitamin D from sunlight, our levels of this vitamin can seriously decrease during the dark winter months. It’s particularly important to take a supplement during this time, but all-year supplementation is recommended for the whole Irish population. Other food sources also include oily fish, eggs, and fortified foods such as breakfast cereal and milk, whilst supplements (opt for Vitamin D3) are available in all health stores and pharmacies.’
Let’s explore some truly simple food changes you can implement today to help improve mood, well-being and promote positive mental health. Here are five simple self-care mood food tips to consider.
1. Eat on a regular schedule
Sometimes a hectic schedule and conditions such as anxiety or depression can cause us to skip meals or eat late. When we do not maintain a regular eating pattern, our blood sugar drops and can cause fatigue or lower moods.
2. Eat your meals with family and friends
Not only does regular social connection improve our moods and sense of community, but eating with others allows us to slow down and be more conscious around mealtimes. Plus, prepping family meals usually include more healthy additions, and eating upright at the dinner table even helps improve digestion!
3. Base your meals around whole foods
Whole foods are typically described as natural, unprocessed, unrefined foods or “real foods” and, when swapped for their opposite, can increase focus and reduce low mood and depression. While it may be unrealistic to eat only whole foods, basing your meals around one or more whole food option(s) can make it more feasible.
4. Include healthy fats in your meals
Healthy fats are rich in omega-3s, which have been shown to help improve your mood. Adding foods full of healthy fats into each meal can help reduce depression, fatigue, and symptoms of ADHD, and even stabilise your moods.
Laurann explains why Omega 3 fatty acids are an important nutrient for mood, ‘as almost 60% of the brain is made of fatty acids, they play an important role in maintaining a healthy brain. Supplementation has also been found to help to improve the mood of patients diagnosed with depression. Aim for 2-3 portions of oily fish per week (such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines), as well as walnuts, chia seed, and flax seed. You can get Omega-3 in supplement form in most pharmacies and health stores.’
5. Include protein in your meals
Foods with high protein levels are full of amino acids, which aid in the production and release of happiness chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. So, making sure to have a source of protein with every meal can help to reduce symptoms associated with such as stress, depression and anxiety.
Just like water can greatly improve your mental and physical health, so too can food! Eating the right foods can help you gain healthy control over your moods and improve your overall mental health! If you are feeling unsure about nutrition talk to the experts, visit your local health food store for advice or contact a professional nutritionist for a personal nutrition plan.
You might also like to read from the Simple Self-care series... 4 Ways Staying Hydrated Keeps Your Mind and Body Healthy
You can book a one-to-one online personal nutrition consultation package with Laurann O’Reilly via her website at nutritionbylaurann.ie. Follow her on Instagram @nutritionbylaurann and Twitter @NutritionbyLOR