Research is beginning to show fascinating links between food and mood and is revealing how what and when we eat and drink can have real and lasting effect on how we feel.
Here are some examples of how you can eat your way to feeling great and get the most from your day.
Eating a breakfast of something such as porridge, eggs on toast or fruit salad with yoghurt sprinkled with nuts and seeds are good examples of meals that give a gentle release of energy over the morning ahead. Research shows that this kind of breakfast can help to keep you clear headed, improve your ability to think clearly and keep your mood steady and stable.
Adding a bowl of blueberries to your breakfast menu or having them mid-morning is also a good idea given that a recent study at Reading University has shown that they can boost concentration for up to five hours after eating.
If you are able to focus on a task in hand, the likelihood is that you will feel more ‘together’, satisfied and less stressed.
Scientists say that blueberries effect on mood are likely to come from their ability to actually increase blood flow to our brains.
Having a small serving of dark chocolate seems to have similar memory-enhancing effects as eating blueberries, with its benefits lasting for about two hours after chomping on a small amount of dark chocolate.
Scientists say this may be down to super nutrients called flavonoids in the cocoa helping to increase oxygen and nutrients to our brains.
Remember that the key words here are a ‘small’ amount and ‘dark’ chocolate. A few squares mid-afternoon could be just what you need to help you feel ahead of the game until home time.
It has been shown that when young women were given 7mg a day supplements of zinc for ten weeks, they showed a significant reduction in feelings of hostility and feeling blue compared to those taking no supplement. Lean beef, canned crab, wholegrain bread and baked beans all give us the mineral zinc. All of these make great foods to include at lunchtime while really good zinc-filled snacks include sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts and sesame seeds. All provide this important mineral to help provide a natural mood-boost.
A lean steak is a good way of upping iron. Intake of this mineral is less than is recommended among a high percentage of teenage girls and women in the UK.
This can leave us feeling drained and tired, stressed and with poor concentration and may even, according to American scientists, be fuelling adolescent females towards stroppy, rebellious moods.
Topping diets up with iron-fortified breakfast cereals like bran flakes as well as foods such as eggs, dark oily fish like grilled sardines and mackerel, dark green vegetables, peanuts, baked beans and figs could prove to be really useful energy and mood-boosters for teenage girls and women alike.
Eggs and other foods rich in protein like chicken and turkey, milk, lean meats, Quorn and tofu could be just what you need to get you over the mid-pm energy slump.
Protein is believed to help to increase levels of transmitters in the brain such as dopamine, which in turn helps to increase concentration and keep you feeling alert.
Spinach, along with black-eyed beans, broccoli, oranges, baked beans and peanuts give us the B vitamin folate.
Scientists have shown links between poor intakes of this vitamin and an increased risk of depression.Eating folate-rich foods is a good idea at all ages while taking a 400-microgram supplement daily of folic acid is encouraged for all women of child-bearing age.
Although this is to help lower the risk of spina bifida in babies, it may also help to have the added bonus of brightening moods as well and lowering the chances of falling prey to the blues and even more serious depression.
If you ever reach for biscuits, sweets, cakes or piles of toast or sugary cereals, when you are feeling down, then it is probably your brains’ way of trying to help to make more serotonin.
Serotonin is a brain chemical, which when released, helps us to relax and feel brighter.
When you feel the craving coming on, resist the temptation to go for the calorific, quick-sugar-hit options and try instead to head for things like a banana, fruit salad with yoghurt, fruit loaf with some low fat cream cheese, peanut butter or even a little chocolate spread on wholemeal toast.
This way you get the mood boost minus a blood sugar roller coaster and a constant craving for more and more sugar-rich foods, which leave you feeling guilty and low for having splurged out on.