The onset of the good weather can be beneficial for both mood and weight management. The idea of salads seems much more appealing and those cravings for stodgy rich comfort foods fade away. The better weather can encourage you to go outside and do some exercise which can help speed up your metabolism and also help your body to make Vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed to make serotonin (the feel good chemical) and you may only need 10 minutes of sun exposure to improve your mood.
There are also a number of ways to support mood through food.
Lean protein to help your body make dopamine (associated with motivation and reward) and serotonin (associated with good mood). The natural way to boost and maintain healthy levels of serotonin is to eat foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin. Combine these protein foods with wholegrain carbohydrates which are also needed for the brain chemicals to have full effect. Tryptophan is found in chicken, turkey, eggs, live bio-yoghurt, low fat cheeses, beans, lentils, quinoa, fish, oily fish, nuts, seeds. Good sources of carbohydrate are whole grains such as oats, quinoa, barley, rye, brown rice, wholemeal breads, oat cakes, rice cakes. Turkey is also naturally low in saturated fat. It can be eaten in a casserole, or in place of beef in a bolognese sauce.
Omega 3 Oils have a variety of health benefits including hormone function and boosting metabolism. They also help support mood. One study from the University of Pittsburgh found that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to experience moderate or mild symptoms of depression. The best sources are the smaller kinds of oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, tuna and anchovies. Try adding a few anchovies to a casserole, or a salmon salad can be a good option.
Berries: These fruit tend to release their sugar more slowly than many other fruit and so help to support blood sugar balance and therefore weight. They may also support stress. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries may help prevent the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can drive emotional eating. Keep berries in your bag to snack on instead of chocolate and fatty foods as well as adding them to breakfast cereals or yoghurt.
Folic acid and Vitamin B12: These are both important in the production of serotonin. Good sources of folic acid are leafy greens, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, oranges, fortified cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, and soybeans. A green salad will contain a lot of folic acid but very few calories. Eating the leaves raw retains more of the folic acid than if they were cooked. Vitamin B12 is found in lean beef, crab, wild salmon, eggs, cottage cheese and yogurt. A salmon frittata could be a good mood boost breakfast on the weekend.
Other factors which affect brain chemicals are:
- Exercise: this helps regenerate nerve tissue in the brain and release feel good endorphins
- Hormone balance: low oestrogen leads to low serotonin
- Food Allergy/Intolerance: some substances which cause allergies or intolerances can have a direct excitatory effect on the brain. In particular wheat is linked to low mood.
- Blood sugar balance