March 20th is World Happiness Day, and how better to bring the positivity up than to reduce stress. What’s more, this can be achieved in part through eating the right foods! So perhaps it is true that you can eat your way to contentment – and here’s what to look for.
Fruits and Vegetables: Dark leafy veg such as spinach contain folate, which has been shown to help the body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Folate is also found in vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, citrus, Brussel Sprouts and avocado. Blueberries also feature on the list of mood-boosting fresh food, where the antioxidants that give them their deep colour also help the brain produce dopamine, which is necessary for coordination, memory and mood. Blueberries also act as a catalyst for the increased production of white blood cells (“killer cells”), which are critical in improving the way we combat stress.
Dark Chocolate: Whilst chocolate is often thought of as a guilty pleasure or an overly indulgent food, it is indeed great for lifting your mood. When you hop into a bit of dark chocolate, feelings of pain and depression are temporarily blocked a neurotransmitter process called “anandamide”. Also, dark chocolate assists in the production of endorphins, another feel-good effect. Serotonin is also involved in eating chocolate, further contributing to the alleviation of stress.
Meat: Turkey is one particular type of meat that is good for mental health. The tryptophan found in turkey triggers the brain to release serotonin, which is well-known to lift the mood and facilitate calmness. Salmon is another feel-good meat product, as the omega-3 fatty acids regulate cortisol and adrenaline in times of stress. It also does a job in looking after your heart through times when stress hormones are high.
Milk: The protein lactium found in milk lowers blood pressure, thus bringing about a calm demeanour. Also, insomnia and restlessness can be helped in part with a warm glass of milk before bed, thanks to the high number of antioxidants and the presence of Vitamins B2 and B12, protein and calcium.
Nuts: Snacking on nuts is perfect for replenishing B-Vitamins, which help to regulate neurotransmitters and handle stress responses. The potassium in nuts (particularly Pistachios) helps to lower blood pressure and reduce the strain that stress puts on the heart. Lastly, cashews make this list as they are rich in vitamin B6, which produces serotonin.
In order to get the best out of the food you’ve eaten to reduce your stress, it’s important not to forget to burn off any calories that are present in them, in particular the carbs and fat heavily present in nuts. Getting active is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and for overall physical wellbeing, but also has the added benefit of being excellent for mental health and mood. Firstly, exercising can simply give a sense of well-being, and this small amount of positivity can still have a significant effect on mood overall. Furthermore, exercising facilitates the brain’s production of endorphins, which are essentially the feel-good kings of the neuro-transmitter world. A knock-on effect of this is better sleep, and this snowballs into better mood the next morning.
All of the foods here go some way to improving your mood, reducing stress and anxiety and giving you a more positive outlook overall – and act as fuel for your body to exercise on. Combining a balanced diet featuring these stress-relieving foods and combining it with some moderate physical activity can set the foundations for a more positive and healthy lifestyle in the long term, and the earlier you start the easier it gets.
Happy World Happiness Day!