29 Mar

Food and Mood

I recently talked to the Limekilns, Charleston and Pattiesmuir Scottish Women’s Institute on food and mood. Lots of questions came up and what was apparent was gut health is strongly linked to what people can and cannot eat as you age. So while the following article focuses on the raw materials for brain function, it is important not to ignore the digestive system. As this is such a big topic I will cover it soon in another blog. These ladies had a great knowledge of food and it was a pleasure to talk to such a long established group. It was lovely to see a group get together once a month and socialise ranging from young to old.

Food and Mood

Food will be high in nutritional value or low or even contain ingredients that will have a negative impact on mood. Symptoms of mood imbalances are: depression, low mood, low energy, anxiety, insommnia and poor memory and concentration.

A typical adult has 100 billion brain cells. Every thought, action and emotion involves communication between these cells that are triggered by special chemicals called neurotransmitters. Rather like texting, neurotransmitters are sending messages from one cell to another to tell you how to feel, move, learn, remember, get up in the morning, sleep and think. An imbalance or dysfunction in neurotransmitters can impact your mood.

What are these Neurotransmitters?

  • Serotonin keeps us happy and improves our mood
  • Dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline are our get up and go chemicals and also give us that good feeling when we experience something we enjoy such as dancing, being in love, seeing your children laugh and succeeding.
  • GABA helps us relax and keeping us cool, calm and collected.
  • Acetylcholine keeps us sharp and improves memory and mental alertness
  • Endorphins – give us a sense of euphoria, especially after exercise or something you enjoy.

Protein is very powerful nutrient when looking at mood health. After we eat a protein rich food like an egg the digestive system breaks it up into amino acids, it then links up into a new sequence and forms a neurotransmitter.

Good protein sources are: chicken, fish, beans, pulses, peas, avocados, nuts and seeds, red meat, game meat, plain natural yoghurt, cheese, quinoa, eggs and even green leafy veg such as broccoli and cauliflower.


60% of the brain is made out of fat. Omega 3 and omega 6 fats are essential fats and a deficiency may result in depression, fatigue and memory problems.

What fats are good for you?

Oily fish – organic or wild salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines; nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado’s and butter. Grass fed meat is also another good source of omega 3 fats. If you are vegetarian flaxseeds and walnuts are a good source of omega 3.

Fat is still linked to diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular health and the wrong fats can impact mood. Avoid inflammatory fats – trans, hydrogenated – includes margarines and frying/heating vegetable and seed oils at high temps as they can be damaging to the nerve cells and brain function.


Carbohydrate is the brain’s main source of fuel but it has to be finely balanced and be in the right form. White refined, processed sugars such as white sugar, rice and flour impact blood sugar levels dramatically affecting mood. If you have too much you feel wired if have too little you feel faint, tired and irritable. Try to eat complex carbohydrates and eat protein and fat with each meal to avoid problems with blood sugar.

Vitamins and Minerals needed for mood

Vitamins and Minerals Deficiency signs Sources
B vitamins Poor concentration, memory loss, low mood and energy Wholegrains – brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat. Vegetables, meat, fish nuts, seeds and dairy
Choline Memory loss and anxiety Eggs and fish


Vitamin D Memory and cognitive thinking Sunshine, salmon, dairy and eggs
Zinc Depression, anxiety, hyperactivity


Pumpkin seeds, meat, fish, seafood, seaweed, nuts and seeds
Iron Foggy thinking, fatigue and low mood Red meat (grass fed), fish and eggs. Vegetarian sources: beans, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, avocado, seeds and dried apricots. Eat these foods with foods rich in Vitamin C to increase the absorption – salads, broccoli, parsley, and fruit


Magnesium Muscle cramps, irritable, sleep problems, anxiety Swiss chard, spinach, pumpkin seeds, butternut squash, dark chocolate and green leafy vegetables: broccoli, kale and cauliflower. Epsom salt baths are another effective way of increasing magnesium levels. Try to have a bath twice a week with 2 cups of Epsom Salts, lie for 20 minutes, pat yourself dry for maximum transdermal absorption


Calcium Sleep problems, irritable and anxiety Dairy, sesame seeds, humus and green leafy vegetables


Antioxidants for protection

Rainbow coloured fruit and vegetables are needed for protection of brain cells.

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, inflammation may be a reason for poor brain function. Incorporate as much colour on your plate as you can – using fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs. Blueberries and dark coloured fruits have been found to help with memory and mood. Bananas are a good source of dopamine. Green tea contains l-theanine, which may have a calming effect on mood. Try drinking 1 cup a day.

What to avoid

Foods that may have a negative impact on brain health may be because they cause inflammation or they cause a reactive process similar to rusting – when this happens it is damaging to our cells and can cause a further inflammatory process.

  • Burnt meat and fish – studies have shown that chemicals made by overcooking meat and fish are toxic to the body.
  • Trans or hydrogenated fats – inflammatory to the body
  • High consumption of dairy and or meat that has been farmed intensively – aim for organic and grass fed products – grass fed also contains higher amount of omega 3
  • Processed foods – foods that contain additive and chemicals that you cannot pronounce
  • Heavy metals – they can be associated with mood swings, aggressive behaviours, low concentration levels, apathy, disturbed sleep and impaired memory. Food that may help eliminate heavy metals from the body are: sulphur containing foods such as eggs, onion and garlic and foods containing pectin – apples, carrots and citrus fruits – a good tip is to put the rind of lemons and oranges on top of porridge, salads, curries, fish, deserts and chicken.
  • Food intolerances and allergies notice any foods that disagree with you and pay attention then professional help from your GP or a Nutritional Therapist.

With the right diet food can have a remarkable effect on mood, eating good quality protein, complex carbohydrates and quality fats with lots of colour of the rainbow foods you will support your brain and in turn your mood.


11 Mar

Chocolate Oatie Bites

Chocolate Feast

Chocolate is a great source of magnesium and craving chocolate may mean you are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is needed for many many systems in the body and due to depletion in the soil, many people find they are deficient. It can help you relax and may aid sleep, it can be used for supporting muscles during exercise and is useful for cardiovascular health, the largest muscle in the body is the heart. It is needed also for helping calcium get into the bones and also supports brain health, PMS and migraines.

Chaga mushrooms have many health benefits. Mushrooms are adoptogens this means they help support your body and adapt accordingly when faced with challenging situations. They support the immune system, digestion, cardiovascular health and hormones. Making Chaga tea daily may help support the body’s health in many ways. It is pleasant tasting and because it looks like tea or coffee it is an ideal alternative to coffee when trying to give up. You can use the mushrooms again, simply pop them in the freezer and use again when needed. You know when you have used all the nutrients from them as your tea stops being brown. The following recipes give you a magnesium boost while supporting the whole body:

Where to buy Chaga mushrooms: Indigo Herbs

Chaga Hot Chocolate (serves 2)

2 tsp. of broken up chaga mushrooms

2 cups of water

1 cup of almond, coconut or dairy milk

2 tsp raw cacao or 70% cocoa drinking chocolate

1 tsp palmyra jaggery or brown sugar

sprinkle of cinnamon

sprinkle of turmeric

Brew the mushrooms in the water for 20-30 minutes with lid off at a low heat

Strain once the water has taken a brown colour

Put the liquid back in the pot

Add milk

Add raw cacao, spices and sugar

Turn up the heat to a gentle simmer, then lower for 5 minutes and serve.

Chocolate oaties

200g of dark chocolate 70% or higher, broken into solids

125g, rough oatcakes (gluten free)

50g raisins

50g pumpkinseeds

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. turmeric

2 teaspoons of hemp protein powder (optional)

50g tahini or coconut butter or butter (optional)


Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water

In a bowl break up the oatcakes into small pieces and stir in the raisins, seeds, protein powder and spices

Stir in the nut butter if using into melted chocolate

Add the chocolate to the broken oatcake mixture

Spread mixture over a baking sheet and put in fridge or freezer to harden. When ready break into bite size pieces and serve.