Article by Kelly Rose BSc (hons), PGCE, RNutr – Educational nutritionist, registered with The Association for Nutrition in the UK.
We are all feeling an uncertainty and dealing with a whole range of feelings and issues.
Most of all we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones and know that the ‘stay at home’ guidelines are the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus and support our precious NHS.
But protecting our health goes way beyond washing hands and wearing PPE, it’s nourishing the body in the ways we need to keep strong during biological threats.
Staying at home is not the norm for us and so we need to adapt, form new routines for a short time to get through.
Change is always challenging and finding tools and strategies to keep healthy and strong is key.
Eating well (the famous 5 a day including 2 fruits a day and consuming fibre rich foods), getting at least 30 minutes outdoors each day (whether that’s, walking, running or cycling finding some way of moving the body), managing stress and practicing good sleep hygiene (get in a sleep routine with timings and away from technology/phones) are your foundations.
Fibre, Outdoors, Sleep and Exercise FOSE – remember to prioritise FOSE every day
The way we are able to fend off disease and illness relates to our diet and nutrition and new scientific papers on COVID-19 are indicating a link to our digestive health, and so eating more fibre is protective for sure.
We wanted to give you a list of ten foods you can incorporate into your diet to support your health, mood and immunity.
This list is based on the current evidence on the importance of tryptophan and its effect on your brain and moods, and the supporting role of antioxidants.
We also draw from the published antidepressant nutrient profile.
10 Nourishing Foods to Boost your Mood
1. Nuts and seeds
Not only are nuts and seeds a perfect protein, fat, antioxidant and fibre rich source of nutrition, many are high in tryptophan, an amino acid essential in the production of serotonin (neurotransmitter/feel good hormone).
These include cashews, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and soybeans.
A few brazil nuts a day provides you with selenium which is one of the important antidepressant scale nutrients.
Tip: Great as snacks, additions to salads, roasted and added into savoury dishes or soaked and made into dips, butter or nut milks.
2. Leafy greens
Greens deserve to have a top place in this list, as for one we do not eat nearly enough of them in the UK.
Secondly, they are packed with folate needed to reduce fatigue and improve mood, and vitamin C essential to a strong immunity.
There are so many take your pick, including; watercress, beet leaves, chard, kale, spinach, wild garlic, lettuce, basil and other fresh herbs.
Tip: Add to smoothies, salads and top with lemon/lime juice and tahini, add into curries or soups, use to make pesto.
3. Beans and lentils
High in fibre and nutrient dense these unsung heroes count as 1 of your five a day.
Eating a variety of beans and or lentils daily means you consume at least 4 of the 12 nutrients pinpointed as crucial to positive mental health.
It can be no accident that the longest living people around the world are eating at least a daily serving.
Tip: buying dried can save you money, just soak and boil well.
Lentils in general do not need to be soaked, just rinse well and boil for approximately 30 minutes, use in soups, curries, chilli, dips, hummus, salads, falafels or burgers.
4. Wholegrains including rice and oats
Ever wondered why it’s always ‘rice and beans’ in the jungle? Rice and beans together provide a complete protein source.
Brain healthy wholegrains are cheap to buy and easy to cook with.
The goodness is literally in these products as whole grain, before the processing, and so choosing brown or wild/coloured rice varieties unprocessed and the same with oats will provide B vitamins to support a healthy nervous system and energy production and lots of fibre.
Oats contain protein and a range of antioxidants plus at least 4 nutrients named on the antidepressant food scale.
You can also try other wholegrains such as barley, rye, millet etc.
Tip: Nutribuddy’s Shake Complete is a meal in a shake which contains several wholegrains such as oats and rice.
Consuming a shake like this is a fast and efficient way to consume these powerful nutrients.
This powerful natural prebiotic is packed with zinc, an essential nutrient in immune health, and also one of the identified antidepressant nutrients.
Recent studies suggest garlic improves anxiety and reduces stress in animal studies, so there is definite suggestive value in eating plenty of garlic.
Tip: add garlic and onions to start a pan of soup, stir fry, curry, chilli, tomato sauce. Add in dips such as salsa, guacamole, hummus etc.
Avocados are often spouted as a ‘superfood’ due to high quantity of antioxidants and the array of nutrients including protein, essential fats and carbohydrates, much of which is the all-important fibre.
We know avocados are classified as a prebiotic and the inclusion of magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, C and several vitamin B within this wonder fruit makes it a definite contender on the list.
The downside for us in the UK, is the potential impact on the planet as our avocado travels a long way, but it’s not the only fruit/vegetable in this category.
Tip: Use as a treat mashed on sourdough bread, add into smoothies for a creamy consistency or make guacamole.
Bananas have to make the list as they are natural power foods, versatile and delicious, in my opinion.
They are fantastic in the nutrition stakes; high in fibre and contain tryptophan.
Bananas are natural prebiotics feeding the good bacteria in our digestive tract.
They are often identified as supportive of mood, but alas the evidence does not back this up.
No matter, they are still supportive to our digest health and immunity and we feel they still deserve a place.
Tip: Bananas are a natural sweetener to add to banana bread and muffins, frozen bananas are a perfect addition to smoothie, milkshakes or blended to make nice-cream.
8. Bell Peppers
Peppers feature highly in the antidepressant nutrient profile because of their high levels of vitamin C, A and E amongst a whole host of other antioxidants and compounds.
Again, providing fibre, and with the range of colours giving clues to the significant health benefits.
Peppers are also suggested to reduce risk of certain cancers and eye disease due to the carotenoids including beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), lutein and zeaxanthin found in these tasty veggies.
Tip: Chop and eat with a dip such as hummus, always a crowd pleaser at parties. Roast in the oven and serve with any dish or blitz up into a roasted pepper soup.
The highest scoring non plant-based foods on the antidepressant scale were oysters, mussels and organ meats.
This again is due to the matching of the identified nutrients e.g. zinc, iron, selenium, B12 and omega 3 fatty acids.
The zinc content in seafood (especially high in oysters) seems to be helpful in reducing depression and low mood, great for our digestive health.
Recommendations in the UK are to consume 2 portions of fish per week, one of which is oily such as salmon or sardines.
Alternatively, algae-based omega 3 supplements can be taken.
10. Dark hot cocoa drink
The mood boosting properties of chocolate are a bit controversial.
This may be because consuming chocolate high in sugar may be more of a comfort but less of an actual mood support.
Dark chocolate higher than 75-90% of cocoa contains powerful polyphenol compounds with antioxidant properties which may boost mood.
In a 2013 study, female participants drank hot cocoa, and those consuming drinks with the highest polyphenol content reported feeling calmer and happier.
Tip: Nutribuddy’s HotSlim drink contains cocoa powder but zero sugar. Instead the drink is sweetened with a natural zero calorie sweetener, stevia.
As well as including cocoa, the drink also contains wholegrains such as oats which are another key mood-boosting ingredient.
Which Foods Contain The Most of the 12 Mood-Boosting Nutrients?
A great food-source which contains a whopping 10 out of the 12 nutrients which have been linked to an elevated mood is Nutribuddy’s Shake Complete, trumping all of those individual ingredients listed above.
This is because Shake Complete contains a variety of natural ingredients including wholegrains (like oats and rice) and also a variety of oily seeds.
Take a look at the chart below to see exactly how it compares.
Most important for good health and mood, is to vary your plates with different coloured vegetables and fruits (eat a rainbow!)
Include berries daily, with wholegrains and some protein foods including pulses and oily fish/alternative.
Don’t forget, it’s always best to consume natural whole foods as much as possible and eat less processed foods.
I promise you will reap the rewards!
Note: The twelve antidepressant nutrients related to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders identified in the Lachance and Ramsey paper in 2018: Folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc.