Ever go through patches when you feel a bit, well blah? We’ve all been there.
The good news is that happiness is within your reach right now. It is totally possible to boost your sense of well-being with the right kind of soul-nurturing foods. Here are my tried and true:
OK, those who know me and follow me. This is the answer. Why? Well, when it comes to feeling good, there is nothing better. Dark green veggies, such as collard greens, kale, watercress and spinach, are a rich source of vitamin C, iron and magnesium.
These are both important in converting tryptophan and tyrosine amino acids to serotonin and dopamine – the neurotransmitters responsible for making us feel joyful, happy, blissful. A good dose of greens every day is therefore a must!
2. NUTS AND SEEDS
The power of nuts and seeds can never be underestimated. While flax/chia/hemp/pumpkin seeds and walnuts are great sources of mood-boosting omega-3s, cashews have been shown to provide the equivalent effects as a therapeutic dose of Prozac.
One of the highest natural sources of tryptophan, a couple of handfuls of cashews a day can keep the blues at bay. And let’s not forget the king of nuts – almonds, which contain zinc (a major nutrient in maintaining a balanced mood), iron (which curtails brain fatigue) and healthy fats (which reduce anxiety).
3. BLUEBERRIES/ACAI BERRIES
With blueberries considered a superfood, these little round bites of sweetness are excellent at relieving angst. Rich in vitamins, phytonutrients (plant nutrients) and a variety of stress-reducing antioxidants, blueberries are the perfect snack to help activate happy messages in the brain. And, it’s not just blueberries. Acai berries are also rich in phytonutrients, with antioxidant levels through the roof!
4. RAW CACAO
It’s no secret that eating high quality dark chocolate makes you feel good, right? That is because your body harnesses the benefits of cacao – the raw ingredient that gives good chocolate its taste and colour. Renowned for promoting well-being, cacao contains phenylethylamine (the same chemical generated by the brain when falling in love), causing the release of endorphins. What a great excuse to indulge!
5. FOODS HIGH IN VITAMIN B
Low levels of B group vitamins (B1, B3, B6, B9, B12) have been shown to contribute to low mood. A strong continued source of B vitamins is therefore essential for prolonged happiness.
Such foods rich in B vitamins include legumes, nuts, seeds, brown rice, oats, dark green veggies (such as spinach and broccoli), and nutritional yeast. Vitamin B12 is found in organic animal products (fish and organic dairy), but can also be derived from a high-quality vitamin B-complex supplement, or in spirulina (see below).
6. FERMENTED FOODS
The gut is one of the first indicators of health. In fact, most of the body’s serotonin (which is responsible for making you feel happy) is produced in the gut, not the brain. Consequently, the gut and the brain (and how you feel) are intrinsically linked. (Did you know there are more neurons in your gut then in your brain?)
So it is super important to nurture the intestines, providing them with good bacteria to help them function to their utmost ability. Fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and drinks like water kefir, coconut kefir and kombucha, are awesome hits. They feed the healthy bacteria in the digestive system. But to be straight up with you, I can’t handle the taste of most, so I supplement daily with a soil based probiotic.
7. WILD FISH
A concentrated source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (the darlings of brain health) is a must-have good mood meal. High in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), enabling membrane fluidity in the brain to allow maximum neurotransmitter function, wild fish, such as salmon or rainbow trout, are key players in amplifying happiness and pleasure.
With omega-3s great at reducing inflammation in the body (one of the major causes of mood disorders), the essential fatty acids of wild fish are known to brighten mood and improve cognitive function. Ideally, three servings of wild fatty fish should be consumed each week in order to experience its benefits. A supplement can work just as well. Other plant-based sources of healthy fats include flax seeds and unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil.
My go-to power snack, bananas are a neat way to put the zing back in your zang. Full of energy, vitamin B6, tryptophan, iron, magnesium and potassium, plus being a natural probiotic, high in fiber, and a regulator of blood sugar, bananas are the bomb! In fact, eating one banana as a mid-morning snack will fuel the body with enough magnesium (a stress-reducer) for the entire day!
9. FOODS HIGH IN VITAMIN D
Boosting vitamin D can improve mood by enhancing the production of the happy hormone, serotonin. Synthesized by the body in response to sunlight, vitamin D can be found in foods such as oily fish, coconut milk, almond milk and mushrooms. A high quality vitamin D3 supplement is also a good idea.
10. COMPLEX CARBS
Complex carbohydrates such as chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oats, brown rice, potatoes, sweet corn, wholegrain cereals, bananas and starchy vegetables have been shown to encourage the production of serotonin, and promote leveled well-being (unlike simple carbohydrates which are known to induce mood swings). So stay off the sweets, bread and white pastas.
11. MACA ROOT
Purchased as a powder, maca root has been used as a stress reliever since ancient Peruvian Incas. Rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium and potassium, it is also a good source of trace minerals such as magnesium and iron (two important nutrients for controlling anxiety), zinc, iodine, and vitamins B1, B2, C and E. It helps control mood swings and is known as an energy booster and libido enhancer. Here’s one of my favourite maca shakes.
Spirulina is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet! It is 60-70% protein and high in iron, B vitamins (notably B12, which is rare in plant foods), tryptophan and essential omega-3. If that’s not enough, spirulina contains calcium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and antioxidants. So it is pretty much a happiness hothouse! So supplement daily!