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Foods to boost your mood, now that you really need it

These foods are a recipe for happiness.

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It's still dark for most of the day, it's freezing outside, the festive period is over for another year and we're back in another nationwide lockdown; January is well and truly upon us. 

When 2021 kicked off, it seemed full of promise and potential. Now, with everyone back to work and the Christmas trees officially put back into the attic, (not to mention the general state of the world) the sparkle might just be starting to wear off the new year.

If you find yourself lacking a little motivation, feeling tired and just generally over January altogether, you might be suffering from 'the January blues'. While it might sound a bit of a cliché and made up, according to the University of Exeter, the January blues are a real thing.

In times like this, it can be all too easy to turn to food to lift your spirits. Generally, this means consuming that extra scoop of ice cream, another handful of crisps or just two more biscuits. While each of these can do wonders for your mood, they tend to have a less than satisfactory effect. Firstly, the comforting sensation they provide is over before you've even finished chewing. Then, there are the feelings of guilt or stress along with fatigue and irritability from sugar high and lows. Yet, the opposite is also true: consuming healthy mood-boosting foods can deliver important brain nutrients while positively impacting your well-being.

No food's a miracle cure, of course, but a healthy diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein can work wonders when it comes to filling you up, energizing your body, and just generally helping you feel your best. Happiness relies partly on good health, which in turn is influenced by what we eat.

With that in mind, we've rounded up 10 foods that are great for when you want a little extra mood boost. With plenty of beneficial nutrients and health-promoting properties, these foods all have the ability to lift up your spirits and improve your mood — and an added bonus is that they taste great, too, so you can totally get a delicious go-to snack and happiness boost in one!

Read on to find out which three foods you should add to your meal plan this month.

Eggs

An old reliable, we are big fans of eggs here at FW HQ. They're especially beneficial to help combat the January blues because they are jam-packed with vitamin D, which a lot of Irish people are deficient in. 

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin as we absorb it from sunlight, but during the winter months, when sunlight is lacking, it's important to find other ways to get your daily dose. 

While oily fish are another great source of vitamin D, we usually opt for eggs to battle the January blues. They're easy to cook, cheap to buy and, if you're limiting your meat intake this month, then they're the perfect way to get some protein into your diet too. 

Dark chocolate

If superfoods were actually a real thing, then dark chocolate would be at the top of the list. As well as being super tasty, dark chocolate stimulates the production of the happiness hormone, serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant. 

The antioxidants in dark chocolate are also thought to reduce stress and anxiety, so there's no reason not to treat yourself to a chocolate bar this month – just make sure it contains at least 75 per cent cocoa solids or higher.

Red bell pepper

Did you know that red bell peppers actually pack more Vitamin C than an orange? They boast the most nutrition of all other bell peppers because they have been on the vine the longest. These low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients to improve your mood, making it an ultimate happy food.

Red meat

Not usually found on #cleaneating shopping lists, a juicy steak has well and truly earned its place on the good mood food leaderboard by helping to manage mood swings and irritability. Red meat contains iron which is essential for keeping our brain oxygenated properly, as well as helping to mae some import brain chemicals. You can, of course, find iron in vegetafoods but you need to eat a lot more if it, as well as B12, zinc, B6 which are other supportive nutrients for the brain all found in red meat. 

Watermelon

A fruit so good, Harry Styles wrote a song about it. In all seriousness, watermelon is the ulitmate good mood food. Often, we find ourselves in the middle of an energy slump thanks to dehydration, which is also a sneaky culprit of sleepiness. An extra serving of a H20-filled fruit like watermelon can help you power through your afternoon.

Walnuts

Now there's a reason to go nuts about walnuts: not only do these nuts make tasty, crunch-filled snacks, they're also one of the few plant sources for healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that's beneficial for both the brain and the heart.

Turmeric

Turmeric is the original cold and flu buster thanks to curcumin, which gives this root its golden-orange colour. Curcumin is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory and can help to calm an upset stomach, lower cholesterol and fight off viral infections. 

During January, it always seems that everyone is suffering from some sort of cold, which can make you feel miserable, accentuating the January blues. 

To alleviate this, make sure to add some turmeric to your diet. Whether you're partial to a turmeric latte or you like the flavour with roasted vegetables, it's bound to give you a boost. 

Avocado

Although avocados are considered a trendy food, especially on Instagram - it can also do wonder for your mood. Granted, avocados are rich in fat but it’s mostly monounsaturated fat (the good kind), which encourages healthy blood flow to the brain – a huge plus for our mental wellbeing. Avocados also contain tryptophan and they are a great source of folate and vitamin B6, low levels of which have been linked to sadness and anxiety. This little green fruit couldn’t be easier to eat. Slice into salads or crush into a spicy guacamole dip. Or serve it up on wholegrain or granary toast and you’ve got a great mood-boosting breakfast.

Salmon

By now, we all know that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish -- particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- play an important role in brain development. But that doesn't mean we all incorporate a healthy dose of omega-3 in our diets. One easy and surefire way to ensure you're getting your recommended intake of omega-3 is eating salmon. Consider that grilled fillet as brainfood. The crucial compound DHA found in salmon helps maintain the central nervous system, not to mention the beneficial effects this fish has on your heart and metabolism.

Banana

Bananas are more than just the post-workout snack of choice for athletes and a vehicle for peanut butter. These mushy fruits could have benefits for your brain as well as your body. Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesise feel-good neurotransmitters (a type of chemical that sends messages between neurons in the brain) like dopamine and serotonin. Separately, they work to reduce depressive symptoms, and together, they form a dynamic duo of brain chemistry to send you tonnes of positive vibes. What's more, bananas, especially when still showing green on the peel, are an excellent source of prebiotics, a type of fiber that helps feed healthy bacteria in your gut.

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