As the nights draw in earlier, many of us will experience a natural drop in mood and energy levels. Making the right changes to your diet can help to tackle these shifts and give you a well-needed boost.
We’re all aware of the importance of a healthy diet. From staving off long term illnesses, to improving our physical health, eating well is a vital part of looking after yourself. And on top of all this, there is increasing evidence that what we eat can also impact how we feel.
This is important in an age where depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
The right foods can improve your mood, boost energy levels and help you think more clearly. We’re going to take a closer look at how what you eat affects your mood, exploring factors such as gut health, thyroid health, and how introducing seaweed into your diet could help to support better physical and mental health overall.
Gut bacteria and mood - how your gut microbiome can affect how you feel
The human microbiome, or gut environment, is a community of different bacteria that have co-evolved with us to benefit our health. Taking steps to improve your gut environment can benefit your wider health, including how you feel in terms of your mood.
Your gut health and your mental health are more closely linked than you might think. 90% of your body’s serotonin receptors are located in your gut. Serotonin – colloquially known as the ‘happy hormone’ – is responsible for regulating your mood and energy levels. Living on a diet of ultra-processed foods can increase your intake of chemical additives, sugar, starch, hydrogenated fats and flavour enhancers, which can disrupt your gut environment. This, in turn, can cause negative changes in your mood, like making you feel more fatigued and anxious.
Diet and depression
Knowing this, it’s easier to understand how what you eat can affect your mood so dramatically. Studies have explored the link between your diet and mental health conditions like depression, establishing clear links.
In fact, a 2018 study published in Molecular Psychology found that eating a healthy balanced diet, and avoiding ultra-processed foods can be protective against depression. Of course, it is all about moderation, so this isn’t to say that one fast-food meal will have such a negative effect, but that these types of foods should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Another study, published in the World Journal of Psychiatry, established an Antidepressant Food Scale which lists 12 antidepressant nutrients thought to prevent and help to aid some of the symptoms of depression, including oysters, salmon, spinach and strawberries.
Taking steps like eating more fresh foods, staying hydrated, getting your five a day and eating enough protein can all help to boost your energy levels and improve your mood over time.
Thyroid health and mood
Like your gut, your thyroid health can have a significant impact on how you feel. Thyroid diseases like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism have been linked to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Those with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) may experience unusual nervousness, restlessness, anxiety and irritability, while those suffering from an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) may experience mild to severe fatigue, and low mood or depression. Thyroid mood swings are often a symptom that people with these conditions also suffer from.
Seaweed is vital when it comes to supporting good thyroid health, thanks to its naturally high levels of iodine. The UK currently suffers from an iodine deficiency crisis, and this key nutrient can play a huge role in ensuring the thyroid is functioning well. Iodine helps to reduce people’s risk of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, and seaweed contains naturally high levels of iodine, making it a fantastic source of the nutrient even for those following a plant-based diet.