“Good mental health isn’t just about the brain anymore. Hormones, digestion and immunity all play a part”. We speak to Alice Mackintosh – one of London’s leading nutritionists about five foods to boost your mood… and don’t worry, chocolate is firmly on the menu.
Butternut squash seeds
Often thrown away, but a nutritional goldmine for the mind! They are a source of tryptophan, which converts to serotonin, our happy hormone.
There is a lot of research going on into the impact of too much inflammation on the brain. And it seems that for some people this may play a part in their mental illness.
This is one of the reasons why we love to cook with turmeric. It’s anti-inflammatory properties in the body are well documented. Some research even shows how it may help reduce depressive tendencies.
Make sure you add black pepper when cooking with it. This helps to encourage the absorption of the goodness into the body. A little oil may also help this process.
We always hear about salmon and other oily fish being important for the brain and they really are. But you can also get omega3 fats from nuts and seeds.
Walnuts are an especially good source, as are hempseeds and flaxseeds. I have many vegan and fish free clients who prefer to use these instead. However I do also ensure they eat plenty of foods containing zinc, magnesium and b vitamins since these help us to process the omega 3 fats better, and make use of them.
Walnuts contain almost all of these, making them a real brain superfood. But don’t overheat them, as the omega 3 fats can be destroyed. You’re better off sprinkling onto salads, breakfasts, or whizzing up with papaya, avocado and almond milk.
This is naturally rich in magnesium, a nutrient that is essential for good mental health and especially important for those suffering with stress and anxiety.
Magnesium can help to improve our resilience to stress by supporting the adrenal glands, which can be relied upon heavily for the average person living a fast paced life in the city – working hard, exercising and travelling.
We are learning more and more about the links between the digestive system and the brain, so much so that this is now being referred to as our second brain. Good bacteria is key for healthy digestion. Some research has even shown boosting the levels of this in the large intestine may support our mood, reduce anxiety and even reduce cortisol levels (our stress hormone).
Kefir, which is a type of fermented milk, is great way to boost good bacteria. Yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchee and miso paste are also good. But for those who suffer with IBS, speak to a nutritionist first before introducing these.