Got a bad case of the blues? Changing your eating habits might just help…
We all know that eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg is one of the best ways to keep your body healthy (even if we don’t necessarily always follow this advice) but it turns out your noggin might thank you for it too. Researchers from the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College looked at the eating habits of 80,000 people in the UK, comparing the fruits and vegetables typically consumed by each person with their life satisfaction and happiness levels. They discovered that ‘happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables’ and that five to seven portions should keep your contentedness levels ticking along nicely.
So which fruits and veggies should you be stocking up on? Well, bananas might be a good place to start, as they contain useful amino acid, tryptophan, plus vitamins A, B6 and C, fibre and carbohydrate. The carbs aid the absorption of the tryptophan, and the vitamin B6 helps transform it into the happiness hormone serotonin, which, let’s face it, we could all probably do with a bit more of. Berries are worth shelling out for too, since they give a natural sugary high – especially varieties like blueberries and blackberries, which boast plenty of fibre to help sustain the initial sugar boost. You’ll want to pop citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit into your shopping basket as well; these vitamin-C-filled beauties can keep low energy, depression and irritability at bay. And leafy greens like spinach are also a clever buy – they’ll top up your levels of vitamin B, folic acid and magnesium, thus keeping those much-needed happy hormones pumping.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means – indeed, the more fruit and veg you can pack into your diet the better. And there are plenty of other foods that will ward off the doldrums by increasing those all-important serotonin levels too – fish, poultry, lentils, whole grains and eggs will all help too, as well as soy foods, nuts and dark chocolate (hurrah!).
So you’ve bought the right ingredients and paved the way to a mood-boosting diet – all sorted, right? Well, unfortunately not: to avoid counteracting all your good work, there are a few things to steer clear of. And I’m sorry to break it to all the caffeine addicts out there (myself included) but coffee is one of them. Not only does this naughty bean interfere with the absorption of valuable vitamins, but it also stimulates the adrenal gland, releasing the not-so-nice stress hormone, adrenalin.
And if you’re looking forward to an after-work tipple, you might want to reconsider – alcohol is a well-known depressant, putting your blood sugar levels out of whack and depleting the tryptophan, magnesium and vitamin B essential to keeping a smile on your face. Needless to say, junk food is on the naughty list too – not only does it provide unsustainable energy, leaving you buzzing one minute and sleepy the next, but it also contains trans fats, which block good essential fatty acids and omega-3 from doing their thing. And although a little dark chocolate is reportedly good for you, it is best to stay away from the milky, ultra-sugary kind, as it is likely to cause mood swings.
So there you have it: eating a balanced diet is good for both your body and mind (but of course, we all knew that anyway). Just make sure you balance out treats with plenty of the healthy stuff to keep the good times rolling.