If you find yourself lacking a little energy or motivation, opt for real comfort foods - the ones that give long-lasting effects, not a fleeting sugar high.
In stressful times, it can be all too easy to turn to food to lift your spirits. Generally, this means consuming that extra scoop of ice cream, another handful of crisps or just two more biscuits. While each of these can do immediate wonders for your mood, they tend to have a less than satisfactory effect. Firstly, the comforting sensation they provide is over before you've even finished chewing. Then, there can be feelings of fatigue and irritability from the sugar highs and lows.
Yet, the opposite is also true: consuming mood-boosting foods can deliver important brain nutrients while positively impacting your wellbeing.
No food's a miracle cure, of course, but a healthy diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein can work wonders when it comes to filling you up, energising your body, and just generally helping you feel your best. Happiness relies partly on good health, which in turn is influenced by what we eat.
With that in mind, we've rounded up 10 foods that are great for when you want a little extra mood boost. With plenty of beneficial nutrients and health-promoting properties, these foods all have the ability to lift up your spirits and improve your mood — and an added bonus is that they taste great, too, so you can totally get a delicious go-to snack and happiness boost in one!
An old reliable, we are big fans of eggs. They're especially beneficial because they are jam-packed with vitamin D, which a lot of Irish people are deficient in.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin as we absorb it from sunlight, but during the winter months, when sunlight is lacking, it's important to find other ways to get your daily dose.
While oily fish are another great source of vitamin D, eggs are easy to cook, cheap to buy and, if you're limiting your meat intake, then they're the perfect way to get some protein into your diet too.
If superfoods were actually a real thing, then dark chocolate would be at the top of the list. As well as being super tasty, dark chocolate stimulates the production of the happiness hormone, serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate are also thought to reduce stress and anxiety, so there's no reason not to treat yourself to a chocolate bar – just make sure it contains at least 75 per cent cocoa solids or higher.
Red bell pepper
Did you know that red bell peppers actually pack more Vitamin C than an orange? They boast the most nutrition of all other bell peppers because they have been on the vine the longest. These low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients to improve your mood, making them an ideal happy food.
Not usually found on #cleaneating shopping lists, a juicy steak has well and truly earned its place on the good mood food leaderboard by helping to manage mood swings and irritability. Red meat contains iron which is essential for keeping our brain oxygenated properly, as well as helping to make some important brain chemicals. You can, of course, find iron in vegetables but you need to eat a lot more if it, as well as B12, zinc, B6 which are other supportive nutrients for the brain all found in red meat.
A fruit so good, Harry Styles wrote a song about it. In all seriousness, watermelon is another good mood food. Often, we find ourselves in the middle of an energy slump thanks to dehydration, which is also a sneaky culprit of sleepiness. An extra serving of a H20-filled fruit like watermelon can help you power through your afternoon.
Now there's a reason to go nuts about walnuts: not only do these nuts make tasty, crunch-filled snacks, they're also one of the few plant sources for healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that's beneficial for both the brain and the heart.
Turmeric is the original cold and flu buster thanks to curcumin, which gives this root its golden-orange colour. Curcumin is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory and can help to calm an upset stomach, lower cholesterol and fight off viral infections.
In winter it always seems that everyone is suffering from some sort of cold, which can make you feel miserable.
To alleviate this, make sure to add some turmeric to your diet. Whether you're partial to a turmeric latte or you like the flavour with roasted vegetables, it's bound to give you a boost.
Although avocados are considered trendy, especially on Instagram, they can also do wonders for your mood. Granted, avocados are rich in fat but it’s mostly monounsaturated fat (the good kind), which encourages healthy blood flow to the brain – a huge plus for our mental wellbeing. Avocados also contain tryptophan and they are a great source of folate and vitamin B6, low levels of which have been linked to sadness and anxiety. This little green fruit couldn’t be easier to eat. Slice into salads or crush into a spicy guacamole dip. Or serve it up on wholegrain or granary toast and you’ve got a great mood-boosting breakfast.
By now, we all know that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish - particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - play an important role in brain development. But that doesn't mean we all incorporate a healthy dose of omega-3 in our diets. One easy and surefire way to ensure you're getting your recommended intake of omega-3 is eating salmon. Consider that grilled fillet as brain food. The crucial compound DHA found in salmon helps maintain the central nervous system, not to mention the beneficial effects this fish has on your heart and metabolism.
Bananas are more than just the post-workout snack of choice for athletes and a vehicle for peanut butter. These mushy fruits could have benefits for your brain as well as your body. Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesise feel-good neurotransmitters (a type of chemical that sends messages between neurons in the brain) like dopamine and serotonin. Separately, they work to reduce depressive symptoms, and together, they form a dynamic duo of brain chemistry to send you tonnes of positive vibes. What's more, bananas, especially when still showing green on the peel, are an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fibre that helps feed healthy bacteria in your gut.
Main pic: Ella Olsson/unsplash
This article first appeared on our sister site, foodandwine.ie