1. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner
You would not expect a car to head off on a long journey without a tank full of petrol, plus a few top-ups along the way. Equally, you should not expect your brain to get you happily through the day without a regular supply of energy-boosting meals.
When we eat food, our bodies transform it into the sugar glucose, which fuels the brain and central nervous system. A lack of food can cause levels of blood sugar to plummet, and our spirits to slump with it. To prevent such mood swings, opt for meals which are rich in complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice and pasta and wholegrain bread. These are broken down slowly by the body, ensuring a slow and steady release of energy into the bloodstream.
2. Tuck into turkey
Turkey is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, from which the body produces serotonin, a naturally occurring brain chemical which boosts our mood. If serotonin levels fall too low, we can become hyperactive, anxious or depressed, all of which can inhibit concent-ration levels - and lead to further anxiety if we fail to operate effectively at work or play. Other foods which are rich in tryptophan include chicken, fish, bananas, pineapples, eggs, nuts, avocados, cheese, milk, beans, peas and soya.
3. Opt for oily fish
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which research suggests can help fend off the blues, as well as help prevent heart disease.
Researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health studied 14,500 pregnant women, and found that those who ate fish throughout their pregnancy were less likely to suffer from depression. Their children also proved less likely to develop learning difficulties or behavioural problems. Other studies found that children who had low levels of omega-3 in their bodies at the age of seven were more prone to depression as adults than those with higher levels of omega-3.
4. Treat yourself to some Aberdeen Angus
As with all good beef, the pride of the Scottish butcher's counter is rich in vitamin B12. This plays a key role in the production of both serotonin and dopamine - another chemical that plays a key role in a number of brain functions. Both chemicals also play a role in sleep patterns.
5. Go for guavas
Guavas are rich in vitamin C, which is vital for the production of serotonin, and so is a key aid to putting us in a good mood. Other foods which are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries and kiwi fruits. Eat a bowl of these mixed fruits for breakfast, or instead of a rich dessert, and lift your spirits a little further by reminding yourself that they are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect against cancer and heart disease.
6. Cut the caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, which causes blood sugar to rise rapidly then fall equally quickly. Drinking several cups of caffeine-rich tea or coffee a day simply puts us on a mood rollercoaster, as our spirits soar and slide. As caffeine is a stimulant, drinking it late at night can also prevent us getting to sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with irritability, anxiety and impaired concentration levels, so opt for a calming chamomile or peppermint tea before retiring if you hope to wake with a smile on your face.
7. Zoom in on zinc
Zinc is essential for good brain function, and studies show that many patients with mood disorders are deficient in this trace element. Zinc may also help alleviate the irritability and low moods associated with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), which is estimated to affect 50 percent of all menstruating women. There is growing evidence that a deficiency of progesterone underlies PMS - and the secretion of that hormone is regulated by trace amounts of zinc. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds, mangoes and eggs are all excellent sources of zinc.
8. Put dairy in your diet
Calcium can help relax nerves and muscle cells, which is why it has been dubbed one of nature's tranquillisers. Milk is one of the richest sources of calcium, but many of us have reduced the amount of dairy in our diets due to concerns over the level of saturated fat and cholesterol these products can contain. Opt for skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and choose cottage cheese and low-fat yoghurts. This way you can ensure you put a little calming calcium into your diet without becoming anxious about what dairy products might do to your waistline or your arteries.
9. Go nuts
High in protein and fibre, nuts are the ideal snack as they are slow to digest, helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Their true mood enhancing value comes from trace elements they contain. Almonds are particularly rich in nutrients and, although they are high in fat, 65 per cent of this is unsaturated. Almonds are a rich source of the B vitamin folate, and there is evidence that a lack of folate plays a part in a range of mental health problems. Almonds also contain the amino acid tyrosine, which plays a part in the manufacture of dopamine.
10. Eat chocolate
As if we needed any persuasion to consume more of the dark and delicious stuff, scientists are increasingly telling us that chocolate is good for us - and that includes our emotions. Chocolate is also said to slightly increase the brain's levels of phenethylamine which is also known as the "love drug", because it is found in the brain chemistry of a person in love - and you don't get much happier than that.
The cocoa content of chocolate also contains tryptophan, bromine and selenium, all of which boost levels of our best friend, serotonin.
Choose dark chocolate with 70 per cent cocoa solids for a bittersweet treat with minimal calorie content, and there won't be any guilt to ruin your good mood.
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