As we find ourselves on the brink of another national lockdown, many of us will be spending more time at home and may well not be relishing the prospect.
In the spirit of ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ I got to thinking about the potential benefits of the situation we all find ourselves in and how I can support you in making the best of it. Which lead me to Lockdown Lunches! Being at home means we have more control over our food. With the right knowledge and a little planning we can commit to providing ourselves with a nutritious lunch every day.
Natural Mood Boosters
Let’s face it, most of us need a bit of a boost at the moment, so I thought I’d focus on natural mood boosting foods. Below, you’ll find a list of seven such ingredients.
You can download my FREE ebook of recipes featuring these foods here
Turkey is a good source of the essential amino acid tryptophan, used by the body to make serotonin. Essential amino acids have to be obtained through diet because the body cannot make them itself. Sometimes referred to as the ‘happy chemical’ serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of mood. Tryptophan also helps to make the hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep.
2. Oily Fish
Oily fish such as salmon and sardines are great natural mood boosters because they are a rich source of the essential omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These essential fatty acids support brain function and are associated with lower levels of depression.
3. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seed are a source of healthy fats and protein and help support blood sugar balance. Many also supply tryptophan and minerals key to brain health such as zinc and selenium. Research has linked moderate consumption of nuts with lower levels of depression (1).
4. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are great mood boosting foods. They provide a range of B vitamins which can help regulate mood by increasing levels of neurotransmitters. Other mood boosting nutrients found in beans and lentils include magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium.
5. Leafy Greens
Another good source of B vitamins including folate, a deficiency of which may be associated with depression according to some studies (2). Leafy greens are also a good source of magnesium which plays a role in regulating neurotransmitters.
Bananas are high in vitamin B6 which is required for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Bananas are also rich in fibre, which slows the release of the sugar in the banana and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.
7. Dark Chocolate
An excuse to eat chocolate! The key is to make sure it’s dark (no dairy and not so high in sugar) and eat it in small amounts.
Dark chocolate is a good source of flavonoids which can reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to the brain. It’s also a source ‘feel good’ compounds such as caffeine.
Remember, it’s not just what you eat..
that’s important, it’s also how you eat. Taking time out of your schedule to sit down to a proper meal, rather than eating on the go will do wonders for your mood and your digestion. Eating mindfully, taking the time to appreciate your food, not scrolling social media whilst eating and chewing properly enables you to enter a parasympathetic state. Rather than being on high alert your nervous system is able to enter a state of ‘rest and digest’, giving your body the best chance to effectively absorb and use all those lovely nutrients from your mood boosting foods.
Why not make a commitment to yourself to carve 30 minutes out of your day for a proper sit down lunch? Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference.
(1) Rosa, P.A. and Martínez-Gonzalez, M.A., 2019. Does the MIND diet decrease depression risk? A comparison with Mediterranean diet in the SUN cohort. European Journal of Nutrition, 58(3), pp.1271–1282.
(2) Bender, A., Hagan, K.E. and Kingston, N., 2017. The association of folate and depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research, .