When it comes to the food-mood connection, certain nutrients may be able to help reduce stress and boost mood, and today I’m sharing my top 4 nutrients to include in your diet to support your mental health.
90–95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, and this “happy hormone” is essential for maintaining mood balance, as well as regulating things like sleep and appetite. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with depression and anxiety, which demonstrates the importance of nutrition and gut health on our mental health. It’s no surprise that the gut is known as the “second brain”, as our gut and brain are constantly communicating via the gut-brain axis.
A few examples of foods that can benefit out mental health include:
🥑 Avocado – this can help lower blood pressure and stress response thanks to the phytochemicals, fibre and healthy fats it contains
🫐 Berries – these contain a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins, and studies have shown that these anthocyanins help reduce scores of depression
🍫 Dark chocolate – this is high in both antioxidants and magnesium, both of which can help lower stress levels.
So let’s break it down. Here are 4 key nutrients to consume to help reduce stress and stabilise moods:
1. Omega-3 fatty acids 🐟
Omega-3s are important for brain signalling and help reduce depressive disorders, although more studies are needed to confirm this. You can get omega-3s in the diet from oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. If you don’t eat fish, you can also get omega-3 from walnuts, flax, chia and hemp seeds.
2. Tryptophan 🥚
Tryptophan (an amino acid) is a precursor to serotonin (the happy hormone), meaning it is converted in the body. Sources of tryptophan include turkey, salmon, spinach, nuts, eggs and soy products.
3. B vitamins 🍞
B vitamins are vital for brain health, with B6 involved in converting tryptophan into serotonin, while B12 is needed for dopamine production. You can get the B vitamins from whole grains such as oats, brown rice and quinoa. Whole grains also help to stabilise blood sugar, which in turn has a positive effect on mood balance.
4. Vitamin D ☀️
Finally, vitamin D may increase serotonin levels and deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with an increased risk of depression. The best sources of vitamin D is sunshine (it’s absorbed through the skin), but it can also be found in tinned fish with bones such as salmon, as well as egg yolks and fortified products such as milk and plant-based milk alternatives.
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Check out my other nutrition-related blog posts below
- The Gut-Sleep Connection
- Nutrition for Glowing Skin
- The Gut Microbiome: Fun Facts
- Gut Health: 6 Top Tips
- Magnesium: Why We Need It
- Prebiotics vs. Probiotics
- Plant-Based Protein
- Nuts About Nuts
- Benefits of Matcha + 3 ways to have it