With the third Monday in January being labelled 'Blue Monday' and January being a generally tough month mood wise for many, research into foods that can improve how we feel is of even greater significance. The last couple of weeks of January are also when many people give up on their New Year's Resolutions, so get your healthy eating routine back on track with mood enhancing foods and an extra burst of enthusiasm!
A recent paper in the Nutrition Research Review has re-evaluated the effect that foods can have on our mood. Tryptophan is an amino acid (the building block for protein) and helps to produce serotonin a 'feel good hormone'. It's important that we have enough tryptophan to produce sufficient amounts of this 'feel good hormone' – which also plays a role in signalling to our brain when we are full. Foods that contain tryptophan include chicken, soyabeans, cereals, tuna, nuts and bananas.
However, as with all things science, it may not be quite as simple as eating lots of foods that are high in this magical compound tryptophan. Excessive amounts of tryptophan can actually have a detrimental effect on out mood – so yet again it's all about balance! Think about ways you could make a few changes to your diet to get the right levels of Tryptophan.
We all know that eating 5-a-day will improve our health, but did you also know that eating fruit and vegetables can help to improve our mood? Recent research from the University of Otago, Christchurch, found healthy young men that ate two kiwi fruits a day experienced a significantly improved mood. It is thought that this is due to the high levels of vitamin C in kiwi fruits. Although this study was conducted with a small sample size, the results add up as early symptoms of vitamin C deficiency include fatigue, depression and irritability – therefore eating more vitamin C may help to alleviate these symptoms.
Try our Fresh Fruit Kebabs with Lemon Lime Dip which is packed full of vitamin C.
Need additional motivation to persevere with your New Year's resolution to get fit? When we exercise, we release endorphins. These help to control our emotions and are responsible for the 'feel good feeling' we have after exercise. So not only does exercising help you to look good, you'll also get an extra spring in your step too.
If this mood enhancing motivation hasn't spurred you on and you're finding it difficult to stick with your exercise routine, think about Kelly, our Fitness Expert's, wise words: 'The real power of change comes from you, so tell yourself you can and will do it, plan when and how you are going to do it and then don't think about it again'.
Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.