The link between nutrition and health (both physical and mental) is an ever-growing field of research and according to studies vegans have no need to fear: plants are packed with the full emotional toolkit of nutrients if you know where to look.
Forget the Imminent Ned meme, winter isn’t coming: it’s well and truly here. Although it promises cosiness – snuggly blankets, open fires and twinkly lights – this dark and chilly season can be hard on our health. And we’re not just talking physical wellbeing.
Some of the worst affected are sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka the ‘winter blues’. Others just find it hard to be cold and cheerful at the same time. That’s not to say low mood is exclusive to the colder months: mental health is affected by many factors, and 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year.
Sadly, depression and anxiety rates are on the up, but you don’t have to have a clinical diagnosis to know what it’s like to feel down.
So, what can we do to give our state of mind the best chance – now and throughout the year?
The following dietary mood-boosters are said to be big players in mental health. Take stock, and be sure to fill your pantry accordingly.
6 Nutrients for Mental Wellbeing
Omega-3s (fatty acids)
Mood Role: function and mood (did you know your nervous system is mainly built from fats? Lack of fats = poor brain signalling = low mood).
Get it from: seeds such as chia, hemp flax and pumpkin; nuts, such as walnuts; leafy greens and spirulina. If you want a quick and delicious Omega fix, add a spoonful of our Cocomayo or Aioli to your lunch. They’re made with rapeseed oil (bursting with Omega 3s) and coconut oil (packed with other beneficial medium chain fatty acids).
Tryptophan (amino acid)
Mood Role: serotonin – ‘the happy hormone’.
Get it from: bananas, oats, soy, nuts, and sesame seeds. Our almond cremes all carry a healthy tryptophan dose, so get spreading to lift your mood!
Vitamin B (vitamin)
Mood Role: Converts tryptophan (see above) to serotonin.
Get it from: beans and pulses, whole grains, leafy greens and bananas.
Vitamin D (vitamin)
Mood Role: the immune system.
Get it from: The sun! Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, so get outside as much as possible (safely please!). Mushrooms and nut milks are a good place to find a fix of the sunshine vitamin in winter.
Mood Role: Stimulates receptors of GABA (a calming hormone), inhibits cortisol (a stress hormone, linked to anxiety, depression and memory loss).
Get it from: Lots of plants! Vegans can feel good about this one – most animal products are devoid of magnesium, while it can be found in abundance in leafy greens, nuts, bananas, whole grains, cacao, bananas and sweet potatoes. Try giving fish and chips a magnesium-makeover: serve our fishfree fillet with wilted spinach and sweet potato chips. Yes please!
Mood Role: Calms healthy sleep.
Get it from: leafy greens, seaweed, almonds, broccoli, figs, seeds and beans. Tofu is also a calcium superstar, found in all of our meat substitutes.
For bonus mood-boosting nutrients, look for organic produce. Some research suggests that organic food has greater nutritional value and many agree it tastes better, which can’t hurt either! Just so you know, all our products are organic and just happen to be super tasty too!
Finally, try to get 30 minutes of heart rate-raising movement in a day. The stimulation of happy hormones and regeneration of brain cells, paired with a diet rich in essential nutrients, will really make a difference to your overall wellbeing.
Go forth, eat plants and feel good!