Mood-boosting foods for January blues
When the dark days of January roll around, it can be tough to get going – let alone keeping up with all of your New Year’s resolutions! With dark mornings, chilly weather, and that general post-Christmas slump, we all need a little bit of extra help to get through the start of the year.
But don’t worry – we’re here to help. And the best part is that boosting your mood in January doesn’t have to involve complicated new routines or expensive plans; just making some simple swaps to your diet and meals can help to lift your spirits.
It’s also important to mention that while opting for these foods might help you get through gloomy January days, your overall mood can be influenced by lots of different factors, from stress and sleeping habits to genetics, mental health issues and more. If you’re having a tough time with your mental health, food swaps might help with some symptoms, but it’s important to reach out and get support if you’re struggling.
Still, there’s plenty of research to prove that certain foods can have an impact on overall brain health, so we’ve pulled together some delicious recipe recommendations featuring our favourite good-mood foods. Get back into the kitchen and add them to your meal plan this January.
First things first, getting a good breakfast can help to keep you feeling full and more content throughout the day – and oats are a great way to kick off your morning. They’re a brilliant source of fibre, which slows your digestion and helps to keep your energy levels stable throughout the day by gradually releasing sugar into your bloodstream.
Oats are also a great source of iron, which can help to stop you from getting anaemia from iron deficiency. Since anaemia can make you feel tired, sluggish, and fed up, it’s definitely worth getting the boost of iron in your daily meals.
For an easy way to add oats into your morning routine, try overnight oats. You can prepare them ahead of time, and combine them with any of your favourite fruits and flavours.
That’s right – it may be January, but turkey’s not just for Christmas. That doesn’t mean you need to be doing a full festive roast every Sunday, but you might not have known that the humble turkey is a potentially powerful feelgood food.
Turkey is rich in tryptophan, which is the amino acid that helps our bodies to create serotonin. Serotonin is the mood-boosting neurotransmitter that helps you to relax, and diets that are high in tryptophan have been suggested to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
Chicken, fish, nuts, and beans are also high in tryptophan, so get a two-for-one boost with this yummy turkey chilli recipe from Ambitious Kitchen, featuring kidney beans which are full of protein and sweetcorn for extra fibre.
Fish has long been known to be helpful for a healthy diet, but did you know that many varieties of fish contain an important mineral for your body and brain? Selenium is a nutritionally essential mineral that your body needs for everything from fighting infection to synthesising DNA.
Yellowfin tuna is one of the best sources of selenium – the only source higher in selenium is Brazil nuts, but these need to be consumed in small quantities to avoid selenium toxicity. You’ll also get plenty of selenium from halibut and sardines.
For a nutritious lunch or dinner, why not try a tuna poke bowl? Try a simple recipe with sushi rice, tuna, avocado, radishes, edamame beans and more. You’re getting even more benefits with this meal idea – avocado is packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and fibre, while edamame beans are full of vitamins and nutrients.
Tuna not really your thing? Try salmon instead. Fatty fish like salmon is rich in omega-3 acids, some of which can be linked to lower levels of depression. Research is still ongoing, but the benefits of omega-3s are supported by studies from the National Library of Medicine. Most experts agree that adults should get 250-500mg of omega-3s per day – and there’s more than 2,000mg in 100g of salmon!
Try this delicious blackened salmon and garlic kale recipe from Once Upon a Chef – it’s a perfect easy weeknight dinner and a great way to add this powerful mood-boosting food into your diet. Not to mention, kale features in the next item on our list…
Dark leafy greens
Dark green veggies, and especially dark leafy greens, are a powerhouse when it comes to supplying your body with tons of nutrients. Vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, romaine lettuce, and chicory are a great source of fibre, folate, and carotenoids, as well as being packed with iron, calcium, and vitamins C and K.
Try making this delicious kale salad with toasted almonds from What’s Cooking, Good Looking – and read on to discover why almonds are a good mood food in their own right.
Feeling snacky in the new year? Opt for almonds! They’re full of good stuff, and high in plant-based proteins, fibre, and healthy fats, as well as providing another great source of tryptophan. Almonds are also a great source of magnesium, which helps to promote stable attitude and sleep.
For a sweet-and-salty snack that’s good for your mood, try dark chocolate-covered almonds sprinkled with a tiny pinch of sea salt for an easy, tasty treat.
And speaking of chocolate, we have very good news – that’s right, chocolate could help to ease those January blues too. Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which help to boost brain health and support blood flow to the brain, as well as phenylethylamine (PEA), which has been linked to improved moods.
Since milk chocolate can be high in fat and sugar, stick to dark chocolate to get the most benefits, with a high cocoa content. Researchers from University College London found that consuming at least 104g of chocolate with high cocoa content could help to improve your mood.
Want something a little bit different in your sweet treats this January? Try making a dark chocolate bark, loaded with healthy dried fruit, seeds, and nuts. The new year might inspire you to make a fresh start when it comes to food, or it just might mean you need a bit of a boost to get through those wintery mornings. Whatever you
need, jump back into the kitchen and get cooking up some of these top mood-boosting foods to help give your January a jumpstart.
If you’re thinking that a new year means it might be time for a new kitchen, we’re here to help – take a look at our kitchen planner to start visualising your dream kitchen. And if you want more inspiration, we’ve got plenty of kitchen design tips for you to browse.