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What are the Best Foods to Support Your Mood?

I'm so excited that guest blogger and Registered Nutritional Therapist Becky Jones has contributed to the Trevnee blog this week with this brilliant post on good mood foods. With summer quickly turning to autumn, it's a great time to increase the nutrient density of your meals. With that in mind you can find a delicious recipe full of colourful foods at the end of the post. But don't skip the rest before learning why it's important for your mood to eat varied foods.

What you eat affects how you feel

Are you tired in the morning? Is that cup of coffee your saviour?

Do you sometimes feel low? Does that chocolate bar call your name?

Stressed & overwhelmed? Do you decide "I’m not cooking tonight, it’s takeaway for dinner"?

sliced butternut squash healthy recipe

We often try to control our mood through food without realising it. But these solutions only provide a short term fix. Low levels of neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine within the central nervous system are associated with mood disorders. These low levels are also what makes you crave a quick fix.

Ironically, those times you struggle to cook a nutritious meal are the times you need it most.

Food can have positive impacts on your mood. And what you eat has physical, mental and emotional effects. Your food choice can even affect your brain chemistry.

Eating vitamins, minerals and amino acids will provide your body with the raw materials to produce the neurotransmitters you need. I've included a delicious mood boosting recipe at he bottom of this post, and provide a list of good mood foods.

But there are some extra things you should know. For example, are you aware that your gut microbiome and inflammation levels play a role in how effectively your body produces neurotransmitters?

The Gut & the Brain

The brain and the gut are always talking, it is what’s known as the Gut-Brain Axis.

The Gut-Brain axis is a bidirectional pathway of communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. Using neural, hormonal and immunological communication pathways between the gut microbiota and the brain.

Our microbiome composition is highly individual, the bacteria within it produce neurotransmitters. It can be affected by many things including diet and stress. These alterations can lead to changes in signalling. Which leads to mood and cognitive changes.

So it's important to look after our gut bugs and provide them with the food they need in the form of prebiotic fibre.

colourful healthy salad

Effects of Inflammation in the Body

Inflammation is an immune system response which suppresses your body's neurotransmitter production.

Systemic inflammation throughout the body triggers behavioural changes referred to as sickness behaviour. Symptoms include cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, lack of motivation and sleep disturbances.

A nutritious diet can decrease inflammation in the body. An anti- inflammatory diet is effective for managing mood disorder and overall health.

Sleep, Mood & Food

I can’t talk about mood without mentioning sleep. Sleep disturbances affect approximately 90% of depressed patients. Insomnia is one of the key symptoms that drives depression.

Without enough sleep, eating well is more challenging.

Not eating well results in reduced serotonin signalling, increases in stress hormone (cortisol), and increased inflammation.

The high magnesium and tryptophan foods (listed below) support sleep.

Foods to support your mood

Anti Inflammatory Foods

Anti Inflammatory Foods

· S.M.A.S.H oily fish high in Omega 3; Sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring to reduce systemic inflammation.

· Flax and chia seeds to increase plant sources of omega 3.

· Herbs and spices such as turmeric and rosemary.

· High antioxidant foods: brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, berries, pineapple, apple, and ginger.

Foods for a Healthy Gut Microbiome

Probiotic and prebiotic foods support healthy gut microbiota.

· Probiotic: Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, and live yogurt.

· Prebiotic: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, leeks, asparagus, onion and garlic.

Foods for Neurotransmitter Production

Magnesium rich foods are good for memory, mood and sleep.

· Dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin & squash, cruciferous vegetables, avocado, banana, legumes, and whole grains.

High Tryptophan foods improve serotonin levels

· Turkey & chicken, tofu & soybean products, salmon, pumpkin seeds, cherries, nut butter.

Things to Reduce or Remove from your Diet

These are foods that increase inflammatory responses and may adversely affect your gut microbiome.

Processed foods: refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, processed meats, and sugary drinks.

Limit alcohol consumption.

Be mindful of caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant that increases sleep disturbances and anxiety. Sources include coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and some supplements.

Mood Boosting Autumnal Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad Bowl

Butternut Squash Recipe


· 1 small Butternut squash cut into 2cm cubes

· 200g Kale

· Olive oil

· 1 teaspoon Dried oregano

· ½ teaspoon turmeric

· 1 teaspoon cumin

· 2 cloves Garlic

· Salt and pepper

· Lemon juice

· Balsamic vinegar

Suggested ingredients to add:

· Quinoa

· Feta

· Pumpkin seeds

· Beetroot

· Roasted tomatoes


1. Preheat the oven to 180degrees

2. Chop up the butternut squash and add to a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, the turmeric, oregano, cumin and pepper, roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

3. Add Kale to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt, massage the kale and add to a roasting tray with 2 cloves of garlic, roast for 10 minutes or until the kale is crispy on the edges.

4. Once cooked dress the kale with lemon juice olive oil and balsamic vinegar

5. Your ready to layer up your roasted salad bowl

My suggestions would be a base of kale and butternut squash with quinoa, a sliced beetroot, a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and feta cheese crumbles over the top.


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