Optimum health is achieved when your body is in a state of balance. When it comes to your mood, having a balanced production of neurotransmitters is essential for a healthy and happy mood. Certain foods play a key role in the production and regulation of neurotransmitters and below are five of my favs.
DARK CHOCOLATE: Bet you are happy to see this one made the cut. Chocolate contains a special compound called anandamide which triggers ‘feel good’ feelings by increasing the production of dopamine. To make things even better, dark chocolate also contains other beneficial compounds that slow the breakdown of anandamide therefore prolonging the effects of these ‘feel good’ compounds. Enjoy 1-2 pieces of good quality dark chocolate to treat the taste buds and your mood. The darker the better!
GREEN TEA: Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which is the the main component responsible for its taste. Whilst this might seem contradictory as green tea can have a stimulating effect from the caffeine, the L-theanine stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to that of which is achieved through meditation. L- theanine also increases the neurotransmitter GABA which reduces neural excitation associated with feelings of anxiety. If you experience anxiety, substituting your morning coffee with a green tea can have more favourable effects.
FERMENTED FOODS: The gut is referred to as our second brain but in fact the gut sends a lot more information to the brain than the brain sends to your gut. This is because the gut has its own nervous system, involving a complex network of 100 million neurons that are embedded in the gut wall. This nervous system, known as the ‘enteric nervous system’ is largely regulated by the trillions of gut bacteria that reside in our digestive tract. These bugs influence the production of neurotransmitters, serotonin in particular 95% of which is produced in our intestines. A healthy production of serotonin and other mood regulating neurotransmitters requires a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Increasing probiotic rich foods such as kefir, yoghurt (Vaalia), sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha help keep the good bugs in check and thus your mood also in check.
DARK LEAFY GREENS: This includes spinach, rocket and watercress which are a rich source of folate, an important b-vitamin necessary for the production of mood regulating neurotransmitters. Folate is easily destroyed by heat therefore eating a big green leafy salad for lunch or adding a big handful of baby spinach to your green smoothies is a great way to ensure adequate folate levels in the diet.
BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin’s which is responsible for giving them their deep blue colour. This particular antioxidant helps the brain produce dopamine which mediates pleasure in the brain and is particularly important in helping us stay focused.