10 ways to boost your mood

Many of us suffer with low mood commonly known as the ‘winter blues’ this time of the year. Shorter days, cold weather and the financial hangover from Christmas can affect us all in some way. Beat the post Christmas blues by following these simple tips:

1. Eat tryptophan rich foods

Tryptophan is an amino-acid found in a wide variety of protein-rich foods. The body converts tryptophan into the neurotransmitter serotonin which is responsible for maintaining mood balance and emotion, sleep and appetite. Good sources are chicken, bananas, tofu, walnuts, turkey, sunflower seeds, milk, eggs, cheese.

2. Don't cut out the carbs  

Low carb diets have grown in popularity in recent years, but cutting them out of your diet altogether can have detrimental affects on your mood and energy levels. This is because tryptophan requires the presence of insulin to escort it into the brain where it is converted into serotonin.

Replace refined carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta with quality carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. They will help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day so you won’t experience feelings of fatigue, anxiety and irritability during those low blood sugar moments.  

3. Eat more oily fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper nerve and brain function and have been shown to help protect against depression. Good sources of omega-3 are oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), omega-3 eggs, walnuts, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds. Omega 3 fats can only be obtained from the diet so aim to eat fish at least twice a week and a small handful of seeds and nuts on most days.

4. Start the day with a balanced breakfast and eat regular meals throughout the day

According to researchers eating breakfast regularly results in improved mood, memory, concentration and increased energy throughout the day. Make sure you eat a balanced breakfast that contains protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.

Eat at regular intervals throughout the day and snack on low glycemic carbohydrates and protein such as fresh fruit with a handful of nuts, oatcakes with peanut butter or celery and houmous. Eating regularly helps keep blood sugar levels steady and prevents mood swings and sugar cravings.

5. Get enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Researchers from the University of Toronto reported that people who were suffering from depression, especially those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), improved as vitamin D levels in the body increased.

 6. Increase your zinc intake

Low levels of zinc have been found in people suffering from depression. Researchers reported that the lower the zinc the more severe the depression. Zinc rich foods include meat, poultry, oysters and pumpkin seeds.

7. Get your five a day

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables - they are packed with essential vitamins and minerals required for mood health. Leafy greens such as broccoli are an excellent source of folic acid, a lack of which has been linked to a depressed mood. Sweet potatoes are full of B vitamins including folic acid and B6 which can help to alleviate symptoms of depression. Bananas and avocados contain tryptophan and vitamin B6 which helps convert tryptophan into serotonin.

8. Treat yourself to a little dark chocolate

It’s no fun to cut out all the things you enjoy right?! The good news is chocolate isn't only a decadent treat it can lift your mood too. A couple of small squares of dark chocolate can cause the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels. The results of a recent study showed that chocolate eaters produced less stress hormones and felt less anxious after 14 days of eating dark chocolate. Finish your meal off with a small square but remember to choose dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa.

9. Cut back on caffeine and drink plenty of water

Some people are sensitive to the effects of caffeine therefore consuming large amounts may exacerbate depression and anxiety. Try limiting or eliminating caffeine for a month to see if your mood improves.

Dehydration can cause headaches, mood changes, lethargy, poor concentration and slower responses. Try to drink about 1.2 litres (sic to eight glasses) a day.

10. Keep active

Researchers have found that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week can improve mood and protect against depression. This is because exercise is believed to boost serotonin levels in the brain. Consult your doctor before embarking on any vigorous exercise regime if you do not exercise regularly.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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