We often associate what we eat with our physical body, but have you ever considered that food may actually improve our daily mental health? This article discusses five foods that may help to make the down days a little bit easier to deal with.
Yes – it’s true! Chocolate does make us feel better. Actually, a study by Nestlé has been shown that eating a serving (around 40g) of dark chocolate everyday can reduce the stress hormones in our brain. Chocolate also promotes the release of endorphins in the brain, which are chemicals that bring about feelings of pleasure and reward. Be strict with yourself though, too much chocolate can result in various physical health problems.
2) Fruit and Vegetables
The experts encourage 5-a-day for a reason! Fruit and veg are essential in our diet to keep our mood up and our mind clear – specifically (but not exclusively) bananas, broccoli, spinach, and berries. A study by the British Journal of Health Psychology reported that people who ate 7-8 portions of fruit and veg a day reported feeling happier, more relaxed, and more energised for the next few days! This is because fresh foods increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which prevents feelings of depression and stress.
Have you ever heard fish being referred to as a ‘brain food’? Fatty and oily fishes such as salmon and fresh tuna are fantastic sources of omega-3 in our diets. Omega-3 is not only amazing for the heart, it alters the levels of chemicals in the brain, increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine. Low levels of serotonin in the brain are associated with depression and a low mood, whereas dopamine is known as the body’s ‘natural reward chemical’, and is used by the body to improve our mood in response to rewarding experiences.
4) Whole grains
We know that the body struggles to function without any energy, but did you know that this is the same for the brain? Eating whole grain food products will result in a steady supply of glucose to the brain, therefore providing the brain with a constant source of energy. These foods also contain vitamins that have been linked to improving the mood of people with depression.
I was surprised too! Apparently, coconut can reduce the ‘flight or fight’ response associated with stress – even the smell has been found to reduce your heart rate after a challenging situation, making you feel more relaxed and calm. In addition, the ingredients found in coconut have been found to improve brain function, and reduce sluggishness and tiredness, therefore improving our mood.
Want more? Check out our top tips to improving well-being at work here