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How to eat your way to happiness

How to eat your way to happiness

Helping people enjoy happy, healthy lives is my work’s mission. But happiness is hard when you’re not healthy. With summer behind us, the shorter, darker days can sometimes get us down. Here are some foods that specifically work to lift mood, enhance happy hormones and calm nerves. Let’s get in the kitchen and let our food be our medicine!

Gone fishing

Unless you’re vegetarian, my golden rule is to eat fish twice a week; salmon plus either a white fish or seafood such as mussels. Be a responsible fish eater by checking out bestfishguide.org.nz to learn which are the most sustainable. As well as being a great source of protein, fish is the easiest source of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

These two fats make up omega-3 which, as you may have heard, is a super-important nutrient for your brain and nervous system. It’s been shown to lessen low moods and boost concentration, not to mention its myriad heart health benefits. A pretty good side effect from a plate of food, don’t you think?

If you’re a vegetarian, you can get your fill of omega-3 from vegetable oils such as flaxseed, olive and avocado, as well as nuts such as walnuts, and leafy greens.

Happy hormones

Sad, mad and hungry for chocolate? Do your loved ones become excruciatingly annoying once a month? If so, you may have a touch of hormonal imbalance. Most women have, at some stage, suffered from cyclical mood swings or premenstrual syndrome. If PMS is a monthly nuisance, start by getting more B6 on your plate.

This little vitamin is famous in my clinic. Also known as pyridoxine, B6 is a common deficiency, especially if you drink alcohol, take the oral contraceptive pill or have a high-protein diet. A lack of B6 can manifest as hormonal mood swings, anxiety and breast sensitivity. It’s also involved in the manufacture of many neurotransmitters including serotonin, a major ‘happy hormone’.

Food sources of B6 include: whole grains, sunflower seeds, avocado and chickpeas. Aim for a combination of these daily, about a cup.

Mighty magnesium 

If a busy brain is making you anxious or stopping you from sleeping, you may be lacking in magnesium. This wonder mineral is critical for more than 300 functions in the body including energy production, cellular replication and protein synthesis. It’s another one that’s easily depleted by alcohol, diuretics, the contraceptive pill and caffeine.

Often we have digestive issues that reduce magnesium absorption. You may notice symptoms like a twitching eye, muscle cramps, anxiety, low tolerance to stress, sugar cravings, fatigue or trouble falling to sleep. Modern processing strips most magnesium from our foods, leaving our daily needs unmet. Eating a diet made up of wholefoods will go a long way towards keeping you topped up.

Food sources of magnesium include: almonds, molasses, buckwheat, brown rice, figs, avocado, kelp (seaweed). Have a cup per day, ideally.

 

Annaliese Jones

Annaliese JonesAnnaliese is NADIA magazine's resident wellness expert.

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