By Eleanor Tucker
We all know that eating the right diet can improve physical health. But did you know that some foods can help our emotional wellbeing too? Have a look at our tips for eating to put a smile on your face.
"The food that has the most influence on mood is wholegrain carbohydrate, which triggers the release of the brain chemical, serotonin", Dr Sarah Brewer, GP, nutrition expert and consultant to Healthspan, explains. "Serotonin lifts mood, making you feel good and increasing your self confidence." Another reason to choose brown rice, pasta and bread - and cut out refined starches like cakes, pastries and biscuits.
B group vitamins can also have a beneficial effect on mood. "It has been found that women with low levels of B vitamins, particularly B1 (thiamin), are more likely to feel less composed and confident than those with higher levels", Dr Brewer tells us. Find these vitamins in a range of foods, including wholegrain cereals, fish, hummus, yeast extract and Brazil nuts (a great handbag-friendly snack).
If you're looking for food to make you happy it might be worth remembering what comes with a 'bad mood' warning! Keep an eye out for processed meats which are packed with nitrates, a cause of tension headaches; junk food, which often contains saturated and trans fats that can make you feel sluggish; lattes, which contain adrenaline-boosting caffeine - but too many can increase anxiety. And last but not least, that delicious glass of chardonnay may provide a pleasant beta-endorphin release, but the more you drink, the more you'll feel depressed.
Dark chocolate, which increases mood-altering PEA (phenylethylamine) to produce a confidence buzz. It also contains tryptophan (converted to serotonin in the body), and theobromine, which peps you up - three reasons why chocolate is so addictive!
Bananas contain an alkaloid that acts on the brain to increase mood and self-confidence.
Pesto contains basil, which stimulates zest for life, pine nuts, a good source of thiamin, and parmesan, for riboflavin.
Garlic can improve feelings of wellbeing and reduce mood characteristics such as anxiety and irritation.
Ginger is one of the oldest medicinal spices: warming and stimulating to increase blood circulation and 'ginger' up your self-confidence. A good one for Valentine's Day!