Happiness can be an elusive thing at this time of year. January can be a strange month; we start off feeling full of energy and good intentions following a lovely break, then before long there can be a slide into feeling fed up – which is usually triggered by a combination of gloomy weather and financial constraints.
Instead of going on a harsh and restrictive detox, or vowing to lose an unrealistic amount of weight in a short period of time, (which often results in feelings of low self-esteem) add nutrient-dense powerhouses that boost your serotonin to your diet and you’ll be feeling great physically, as well as mentally, in no time – plus you’ll stand a better chance of sticking to those initial New Year’s resolutions.
People who suffer from mild depression often have low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical messenger which is synthesised from tryptophan and which studies have shown stabilises your moods, helps you sleep better and makes you feel and look good as well as helping you to live longer. And, when we are happier and healthier within, almost every aspect of our lives tend to improve. If you’re feeling naturally happy, you look as if you’re glowing, and day-to-day problems don’t seem nearly as difficult to tackle as they do when you’re tired, stressed, anxious and depressed.
Eggs: The humble omelette is a brilliant way to start each day. As well as filling you up and giving you a gentle source of energy throughout the morning, which means you’re less likely to end up snacking, the protein in eggs can significantly boost your blood plasma levels of tryptophan. Omelettes are quick and easy to make and give you a fantastic chance to pack in a dose of green veg before you’ve left the house.
As well as boosting your happiness levels, a spinach and cheese omelette gives you a dose of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, protein and choline.
Salmon: We’ve talked about salmon being brilliant for banishing blemishes but it’s also rich in tryptophan meaning you’ll feel happier after eating it, as well as having clear, glowing skin. It is said that eating oily fish such as salmon twice a week can increase your lifespan and, when it is wild-caught and not farmed, salmon is one of the most nutritious foods out there.
Not only does salmon have one of the highest omega-3 contents, it is also packed with other vitamins and minerals. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin B12, vitamin D and selenium. It is a good source of niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, phosphorus and vitamin B6, choline, pantothenic acid, biotin and potassium.
Wrap a fillet in baking foil, squeeze the juice of one lemon plus a dash of olive oil, season and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. With a side of blanched asparagus and a helping of quickly stir fried or steamed quinoa, chick peas and brown rice, you’ve got a balanced, quick meal that’s perfect for any time of day and is as nutritious as it is delicious.
Pineapple: Bromelain, which is an enzyme that is found in pineapple, has been linked to better heart and circulatory health, improvement in asthma and other breathing conditions as well as improved immunity. Pineapple contains tryptophan, so a few slices makes the perfect dessert or snack. Or, you can add to a smoothie, with one of our other feel good heroes – turmeric – plus an orange and an organic lemon. Whizzed together in a blender into a frothy turmeric sunrise, this is one of our favourite ways to super-charge our immune systems, and you feel noticeably happier within 15 minutes of drinking.
Cheese: Cheese is bursting with tryptophan and anyone who has enjoyed a meal topped with melted cheese can attest to its feel good powers. A brilliantly healthy version of the classic mac ‘n’ cheese is using spaghetti squash instead of macaroni. If you’re in need of inspiration, here’s that recipe plus ten healthier versions of that great traditional cheesy dish. (Or having cheese in a omelette is a brilliant choice.)
Nuts and Seeds: Did you know that all nuts and seeds contain happiness promoting tryptophan? Studies show that eating a handful of nuts a day can lower your risk for cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems. They’re also great sources of fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants. The perfect snack if eaten in moderation, obviously go for unsalted over the salted kind if you can.
Worth noting: If you’re in an emotional slump, talk therapy, twice-daily meditation and forcing yourself to exercise, even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day will all help. Never be afraid to talk to your doctor and friends if you’re feeling really down, and try to remember that alcohol is a depressant so won’t help you, no matter how tempting an evening drink might seem as a pick-me-up. A good night’s sleep and a balanced diet really does work wonders for banishing the blues.
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