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Eat yourself happy

What you eat has an enormous impact on how you feel. Here’s our 10-step guide to feeling great every day.

1. Slow release carbohydrates

Carbohydrates play a key role with transporting tryptophan to the brain, which is then converted to our happy hormone serotonin.

This means that low mood can be a common side effect of popular low carbohydrate diets. Not all carbohydrates are created equally though. Fast release carbohydrates such as white refined bread, pasta, rice, pastries, fruit juice and confectionary goods can provide a short burst of energy, but can also result in blood sugar highs and lows.

Blood sugar lows can cause concentration to go straight out the window. This is because our brains run on sugar to function, in fact the brain uses as much as 20% of energy needed by the body. All carbohydrates break down to sugar, but only the fibre-rich slow release carbohydrates provide sustained fuel to the brain.

What should you do?

Choose fibre rich wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, oats, potato, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, and barley.

2. Set yourself up for success by having a healthy option to hand for that 3pm sugar fix!

If you have the right food to hand, then you’re more likely to make healthier choices when those sugar cravings hit. Whilst many of us have sugar cravings, consuming neat sugar straight off the spoon seems rather unappetising. Instead we crave a combination of sugar and fat which provides those moreish and hyperpalatible qualities.

What should you do?

If opting for a healthier sweet snack, choose a mix sugar and fat for their satisfying properties - try apple (sugar) dipped in nut butter (fat), or a banana (sugar) with Greek yoghurt (fat). You could also try our low sugar cacao and chia energy balls.

3. Nutrient dense foods

Crisps, chocolate and ready meals may seem convenient and can be enjoyed in moderation. However if they regularly feature within the diet, you may be lacking on vitamins and mineral which support mood.

For example you a snack of a banana dipped in almond butter or homemade houmous and carrots can be super tasty, yet also also provides you with a source of vitamin B6. This water-soluble vitamin plays an essential role in the production of key neurotransmitters, which are involved with mood, including serotonin and dopamine.

Low levels of vitamin B6 have been associated with symptoms of depression as well as PMS and mood swings.

4. High fibre foods

90% of our serotonin is located within the gut, and only 10% is located within the brain. Scientists are now referring to our gut as our second brain, and the latest research has shown that our gut bacteria may influence how much serotonin we produce.

While the research is still relatively new and not yet conclusive, many of us could do with a little more good gut bacteria due to widespread antibiotic use.

Fibre is our gut’s best friend and the primary fuel for our good gut bacteria. Whilst we should aim for 30g per day, many within the UK are only consuming 15-18g.

What should you do?

Try wholegrains such as cous cous or wholegrain bread. Opt for hummous + carrot sticks as a snack. Add the whole fruit to your smoothie and top up with fibre rich chia seeds.

5. Tryptophan rich foods

Tryptophan is part of a protein molecule and is the precursor to our happy hormone serotonin. Consumption of foods rich in tryptophan such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, beans and lentils can play an important role with influencing mood.

By combining 30g of carbohydrates with tryptophan rich foods, you can boost absorption and utilisation drastically.

What should you do?

Chicken is one of the richest sources of tryptophan, try adding to your sandwich. You could also add some natural yoghurt to your smoothie or enjoy as a snack.

6. Don’t overdo the caffeine

It may be tempting to rely on caffeine for energy and brainpower, however overconsumption much may lead to anxiety, irritability, and even insomnia. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks. Whilst we know that it in some people it can improve feelings of alertness, in others caffeine can affect mood and may result in anxiety.

If you notice that caffeine makes you feel jittery or anxious it may be time to cutback. Try tapering off your intake slowly as sudden caffeine withdrawal can result in headaches and low mood, which can wreak havoc with concentration.

What should you do?

Choose: calming herbal teas such as chamomile, lemon balm and lavender

7. Be mindful of alcohol

As the summer season approaches, it’s all too easy to overindulge on cocktails and wine. Whilst moderate consumption is all ok to have, it’s important to remember that alcohol has a depressant effect on the brain. What’s more, heavy drinking increases the risk of developing a thiamine deficiency, and can worsen mood, irritability and anger.

What should you do?

Choose: no more than 14 units per week on a regular basis

1 unit =

  • 1 small glass wine

  • ½ pint beer or larger

  • 1 single measure spirits

  • 1 small glass sherry or port

8. Switch to Matcha Green tea

Green tea on the other hand contains a much lower caffeine content and is rich in compound called l-theanine. L-theanine studied for its ability to provide feelings of relaxed alertness and clarity, without the jitters that keep us up all night.

9. Don’t skimp on omega 3 fats

Did you know that 60% of your brain is made up of fat? Most of these fats are similar to essential fats called omega 3’s found in oily fish.

Research suggests that omega 3 fats may play a role in reducing symptoms in patients with depression. The current government guidelines advise that we consume 2 portions of fish a week, one of which is oily.

What should you do?

Choose: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies

10. Top up on the sunshine vitamin!

Vitamin D is referred to as the sunshine vitamin for good reason. This vitamin is manufactured within the body in response to sunlight reaching our skin. This means that there is an increased risk of developing a deficiency during the dark winter months.

Interesting research has shown an association between low vitamin D levels and Seasonal Affective Disorder, which occur during the winter months! This is why we should consider supplementing with 400IU vitamin D daily between October-April. During the spring and summer months, consider spending 15-20 minutes outdoors each day to top up your levels.



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