The current lockdown is affecting everyone in different ways but a common theme throughout is how it is affecting us mentally. With many people separated from their loved ones and unable to spend the year as they planned, it can take a toll on our mood as well as physical wellbeing.

In this week’s Nutrition News, we look at recent studies on foods that can have a positive impact on mood and mental health as well as covering some of the lesser known food groups that potentially deserve superfood status. Read it here.

The foods that can lift your mood

We recently covered in this Nutrition News article, the nutrients that can support mental health, now, Healthline has published a range of studies and research on various foods that affect mood.

While mood can be affected by a number of factors, including stress, environment, poor sleep and mental disorders, there are a number of food types that, research suggests, can support brain health and mood.

One such food group is fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, which are rich in the omega 3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Studies suggest that these omega 3s contribute to the plasticity of the brain’s cell membrane and have a role in brain development.

Fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir and kombucha, are also thought to support a happy and healthy mind. Probiotics are created in the fermentation process and support the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, which studies suggest may increase serotonin levels.

Bananas are also discussed in the article, hailed for their vitamin B6 content, which helps synthesise neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

Study on fish oil mental health

Following on from the article on foods for mood, another study has been published that evaluates the relationship between fish oil and mental health. The fish oil study, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, used skin cells from adults who had a clinical diagnosis of depression, split into two groups, those who previously responded to antidepressant treatment and those who had been resistant. The skin cells were then converted into stem cells and then directed to develop into nerve cells. When fish oil was tested, both the treatment responsive and treatment resistant models responded.

Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder, with as many as one in six people experiencing at least one depressive episode in their lifetime. While the study does not suggest that fish oil can in any way be considered a treatment for clinical depression, the research does raise questions over its relationship with the brain.

The researchers saw that fish oil was acting, in part, on glial cells, not neurons. This is a subject area that needs further investigation as there is mounting evidence to suggest there is a link between glia and its role in depression.

A list of lesser known healthy foods

There are a number of foods that are considered superfoods, such as spirulina, garlic and goji berries, but there are a whole host of foods that are rarely given such a title but could have equally positive effects on the body.

This article from WebMD looks at a number of food types that may not be getting their fair share of the limelight but are certainly worth adding to your shopping list:

  • Cauliflower

While broccoli is well regarded for its nutritious properties, cauliflower is also very nutritious, containing an impressive amount of vitamin C and fibre.

  • Sardines

Fatty fish such as salmon is frequently regarded for its omega 3 content but some smaller fish pack an equally big punch. Sardines are not only a good source of omega 3s, they’re also a source of vitamin D and one of the few foods that are high in vitamin B12.

  • Tempeh

Tofu has recently become a household staple but tempeh is similarly made from soybeans and offers a great range of nutrients including protein, potassium and calcium.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.