Here’s how you can elevate your mood simply with the power of food

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Anyone who has felt hangry (angry as a result of hunger) or missed a meal and felt down can attest to the fact that food plays a pivotal role in emotions.

The correlation between food and mood is well-documented, but not all food can improve one’s mood. That’s why Tetley partner dietitian Mbali Mapholi has provided a list of her top mood-boosting foods to incorporate into a daily diet.

“There is a science-backed magic of mood-boosting or mood-supporting foods – a treasure trove of natural ingredients that can uplift your spirits and make you feel fantastic,” explained Mapholi. “Nutrition is the cornerstone of our overall well-being, and its impact on the brain and emotions is profound. The brain thrives on nutrients like antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals essential for maintaining neural connections, fostering neuroplasticity, and supporting the production of neurotransmitters that regulate our emotions. Basically, food feeds the emotions – but also the actual brain matter.”

Mapholi said further to this, the gut-brain connection is an important one to consider: “A healthy gut microbiome nourished by a balanced diet influences neurotransmitter production, and can impact mood and stress levels. Incorporating regenerating foods can create a harmonious symphony between your plate and your mind, promoting a positive outlook and emotional resilience.”

Candice Sessions, Tetley Marketing Manager, said that against the challenges of modern living, eating right is more important than ever: “What you put on your plate plays a significant role in how you feel and perceive the world around you. The regenerative diet outlined by Mbali isn’t just about nourishing the body; it’s about feeding your mind and emotions so that you’re able to better face the day ahead.”

Mbali’s top mood-boosting foods

Mbali has shared a selection of culinary choices that not only satisfy the taste buds but also nourish the emotions – all of which are easily accessible in the South African market. Here she explains what they are – and how they work.

Teas

Green tea, like SA’s favourite Tetley Green Tea, soothes your mind with L-theanine and antioxidants which reduce stress and promote a serene state. It’s best to enjoy green tea 15 minutes after a high-fibre, whole-grain breakfast (such as oats) for sustained energy and a balanced mood.

Chamomile tea, like the Tetley Pure Chamomile, has calming properties that ease nerves and enhance sleep, contributing to improved cognitive function and emotional well-being. It pairs well with magnesium-rich foods such as almonds or bananas which are known for stress reduction.

Black tea, including the Tetley Black Tea range, contains theaflavins and thearubigins that enhance cognitive function and mood regulation. Moderate caffeine content offers gentle energy and promotes focus and mental clarity. Pairing black tea with mixed berries isn’t just about taste; it’s about providing your brain with a vitamin-rich treat that fuels your vitality.

Blueberries

These are more than just a burst of flavour; they’re a burst of mood-enhancing goodness. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which shield your brain cells from oxidative stress. This protection goes a long way in supporting cognitive function and boosting memory. But that’s not all – anthocyanins have been linked to improved mood regulation, promoting feelings of positivity.

Dark chocolate

Indulging in dark chocolate isn’t just about savouring its rich taste; it’s about enjoying a mood-elevating experience. Dark chocolate contains compounds that trigger the release of endorphins – those ‘feel-good’ chemicals that put a smile on your face. But the benefits go beyond instant happiness. The flavonoids in dark chocolate enhance blood flow to your brain, which means improved cognitive function and sharper thinking. With each bite, you’re giving yourself a delightful boost of both joy and mental clarity.

Oily ‘fatty’ fish

Oily fish such as pilchards, salmon, trout, and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids which are like superheroes for your brain. They nurture brain cell membranes, help create neurotransmitters that regulate mood, like serotonin, and are known to reduce inflammation.

Green, leafy vegetables

These vegetables not only bring vibrant colour to your meals, but they also help to promote a positive state of mind. Vegetables like spinach, wild mustard, amaranth kale, and Swiss chard are rich in folate – a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in producing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are your brain’s messengers of happiness and pleasure.

Nuts and seeds

Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds are all packed with nutrients that support your emotional well-being. Healthy fats, like those found in nuts, are essential for brain health and mood stability. They are also high in Magnesium which promotes relaxation and helps manage stress. B vitamins, also abundant in nuts, play a role in neurotransmitter production, ensuring your mood remains balanced.

Mapholi noted that avoiding foods that impact mood and overall well-being negatively is as important as stocking up on mood-boosting foods. “Regularly eating foods that are highly processed, and high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, can lead to feeling sluggish and bloated, and also create spikes and slumps in energy levels – and mood as a result. Once we start viewing food for what it is – fuel for the body and mind – we will hopefully be more mindful about our daily dietary choices”.

To discover more healthy tips and recipe ideas visit www.joekels.co.za. For more insightful dietary information, follow Mbali Mapholi @Urbandietitian.