BEAT BLUE MONDAY: TOP 6 FOODS AND DRINKS TO BOOST THE MOOD
Monday 18th January is reported to be the most depressing day of the year. It’s therefore highly likely you may be feeling like digging out that last box of Christmas chocolates or exercising one finger by calling your favourite pizza delivery (yes we know you have it on speed dial for these occasions!) But hold it right there because believe it or not these comfort foods are not the best way to beat the January blues!
On a mission to prepare ourselves for the possibility of a January crash and junk food blow out we spoke to Frida Harju, the in-house nutritionist at the health & Fitness app Lifesum to find out what we can eat that will actually boost our mood (instead of leaving us feeling fat, full and failed!)
Frida believes that good health and a strong physique are essential for a healthy and happy lifestyle, and her main interest lies in physical activity in all its forms; she is constantly setting herself new and challenging fitness goals in order to stay motivated. Follow Lifesum on Instagram for Frida’s motivational fitness and nutrition tips.
Here are Frida’s top six foods and drinks to help you to succeed in reaching your goals and to keep your mood up:
A known aphrodisiac, chocolate is absolutely delightful, as it is full of anandamide and phenylethylamine, two ingredients that cause the body to release the happy hormones, known as endorphins. Opt for dark chocolate over 70% cacao.
In order to boost the mood, essential fatty acids such as omega-3, found in oily fish, help to improve your mood and increase the levels dopamine. Try making mackerel on toast in the morning or taking a can of tuna into work to eat as a snack or, alternatively, take fish oil supplements such as cod liver oil every morning.
Many of us are guilty of relying too heavily on coffee to get us through the day at work. Although coffee stimulates the mind and improves concentration, it is common to experience short bursts of energy followed by a sharp plunge. For those wanting to kick the coffee habit, green tea is a great alternative; it contains less caffeine than coffee but will still act as a mild stimulant whilst simultaneously improving your health due to the amount of antioxidants and flavonoids it contains. But, most importantly, remember to drink lots of water; carry a water bottle with you at all times to ensure you are constantly hydrated. You can drink around 4-5 cups a day.
Neurotransmitters in our brain carry information between cells and have the ability to affect our mood. When neurotransmitters contain the chemical dopamine, we are more likely to feel enthusiastic and driven. Sugary foods, like chocolate or sweets, tend to increase dopamine in short bursts, followed by an equally sharp comedown. To ensure a prolonged mood increase, it is best to eat foods containing phenylalanine, a molecule used to make dopamine, which is found in eggs. Rather than staying in bed till the last possible minute and grabbing a croissant en-route, it is worth waking up 15 minutes earlier to cook eggs for breakfast, 1-2 eggs per day is recommended.
Don’t forget your vegetables! A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry shows that eating a diet rich in whole foods are less likely to report feeling depressed. Folate, a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and green vegetables like spinach and kale, affects neurotransmitters that effect mood. The high potassium levels found in spinach increases the speed of signals between neurons, helping our brains to be more responsive. In recent years, spinach has become a fashionable superfood so it is often included in restaurants’ menus but the easiest way to consume spinach is to add raw leaves to a salad or eat boiled spinach with scrambled eggs for a nutritious breakfast.
Blueberries have been labelled a superfood due to their high levels of polyphenols, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds that positively impact the nervous system and brain function, helping to combat memory loss and enhance your mood. Polyphenols also have the potential to prevent the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.