5 essential foods to help boost your mood

So I have spoken in a previous post about how gut health can affect your mood and I gave you an insight about fermented foods and drinks and how they can increase your ‘good’ gut microbiome. Well in this post today, I wanted to go into some specific foods that have been found to support and promote mental wellbeing and (*spoiler alert*) you’re never going to deny yourself  dark chocolate the next time your fed up!

So here are 5 foods that can help to increase your mood and the science behind it all:

Fish– So we have probably all heard about omega 3 fatty acids, and maybe you have heard that they have been linked with helping things like memory and joints. Well yes, omega 3 can be found in fish (but also nuts, seeds and eggs) and it is thought that a low intake of this fatty acid may predispose some people to depression and anxiety. Although the data is currently mixed, some studies suggest that these healthy fats (supplemented through a fish oil) may ease symptoms of depression.

Nuts and seeds– Along with also providing omega 3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds are also great sources of vitamin E, zinc and magnesium which are all linked to boosting mood. In particular, magnesium is vital for GABA production, a neurotransmitter that helps to ‘slow the brain down’ and produce “happy hormones” like serotonin. This calming effect that magnesium seems to have has also been found to help with sleep issues and insomnia. As we all know, getting a good night’s rest can dramatically help to improve our mood, and with pumpkin seeds being particularly high in this mighty mineral, eating these and other nuts/ seeds are a great ‘mood food’ option.

Eggs- Eggs are an amazingly protein rich food which contain the essential amino acid ‘tryptophan’.  Tryptophan can naturally regulate the mood as it helps to balanceMade with Square InstaPic hormones and boost feelings of safety, connection and wellbeing through increasing serotonin production. I did always wonder why having eggs for breakfast made me and Shelly the cat so happy…

Other great sources of tryptophan are: turkey, beef and green leafy vegetables.

Green leafy vegetables- The miracle foods… If you wanted to just improve any diet nutritionally in one safe swoop, these bad boys would be the answer. When it comes to mood, green leafy veg contain a lot of the goodness discussed above such as magnesium, tryptophan, vitamin E and zinc. They also contain B Vitamins which are needed within the body in order for you to deal with stress. In particular B6 and B7 which can be found in green leafy vegetable have been linked to positive mindset, energy, increased concentration and even brain development!

Dark chocolate- YES! I hear you say…NOW your talking. Well it can’t be denied, dark chocolate has in many cases been found to increase mood and although it is not exactly clear on why this effect is, I believe it is just our brain being bloody thankful for something so amazing J It is good to mention here though, that dark chocolate is often a much better option than milk chocolate due to it having much less sugar. The higher cocoa level percent you can get is also better as this is where all of the amazing goodness comes from.

The top 5 foods that can boost

So overall, as always it looks like in order to fully support your mood, eating fresh, wholesome food is often a good starting point. Remember, the more varied the better in order to get different nutrients and if you can also dip it in dark chocolate it’s a winner winner 😉

Gluten tag!

Good evening friends 🙂

Today I wanted to chat about gluten… something that you have probably heard about but not necessarily know what it is. So basically its a little protein that I previously used to just associate with pasta and bread. Well how wrong could I be! It seems to be in bloomin everything!

A couple of weeks ago I went ‘gluten free’. I think it probably took about 4 hours before I accidentally used soy sauce (which contains gluten) in a stir fry. Never mind the stock cube I wanted to put in my soup, the veggie sausages I wanted with my gravy and mash and of course I forgot that going gluten free would mean good bye office biscuits!!

So it was definitely harder then I thought it was going to be… apparently gluten (like sugar) is quite desirable to the old taste buds so food manufacturers do like to sneak it into foods that you wouldn’t expect it to be. In fact, once broken down in the stomach, the polypeptides can cross the blood- brain barrier and bind the the brains morphine receptor! No wonder a cheeky jam doughnut can give you such a high!

So why gluten free? I don’t really suffer from stomach issues so surel21910707_121864101772567_4847342069275951104_ny eating it is fine right??

Well it wasn’t until I started reading the ‘Grain Brain‘ book by David Perlmutter  that I started to realise that the gut is not the only thing that can be affected by gluten. As many as 40% of us cant properly process gluten and because of this it can cause some issues with inflammation across the body and in the brain. Not only has gluten been linked with ADHD, anxiety and chronic headaches, but the case shared by Dr Perlmutter explains how this inflammation within the brain can lead to dementia.

So it’s not all doom and gloom and with most things, going gluten free is achievable though going back to the traditional caveman/ paleo type diet. Full of veg, nuts, seeds, meat and fruit.

I’m not going to lie… I have struggled with cutting gluten out completely but even being conscious of it’s effects have motivated me to make some healthier adaptations to my diet. As always, going back to basics with fresh/ unprocessed foods is a sure fire way to stay away from the sticky protein. Those cavemen did sure know a thing or two about what our body needs and if they got by without a crispy creme doughnut Im sure I can too 🙂

(I will just get by with making and scoffing a gluten free cake with almonds and coconut flour instead!!! haha)21576669_1276110255845377_4189539455339593728_n

Talking sh*t! (and gut health)

So not one of those topics that most people are generally willing to talk about…their gut health! 

gutI have recently been doing more research into how your gut microflora (both good and bad bacteria) can effect your mood and I have been pretty shocked about how imbalances within our gut can have a HUGE affect on mental well being! In fact, 95% of seretonin (the happy hormone) is found within the gut and dysbiosis (which is an overgrowth of bad bacteria) can actually negatively impact the signalling of seretonin.



Loads of research is currently being completed on the association between the gut and the brain and I feel over the next few years we will hopefully find out much more about how our gut health can impact of not only our physical, but also mental wellbeing.

Although I haven’t really had a huge issue with my gut, through a free stool test being offered to my University by ‘Regenerus Labs’ I have recently had a more ‘in depth’ (shall we say) overview of how healthy my gut it. I would like to think that my balanced/ varied/ low processed diet would mean that all would be fine with my healthy gut bugs, but I was quite surprised to find that a few of my ‘good bacteria’ strains were lower than normal. One of these bacteria which is lower than normal is Enterococcus which has also been found to produce serotonin!! I am pretty dam happy at the moment but imagine the possibilities if my army of Enterococcus was at full strength!  🙂 🙂

So what am I going to do about this? I am going to continue to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and to keep my intake of sugar as low as possible. I am going to dig out my probiotics from the back of the fridge (my good intentions were short lived when I initially bought them) and try to introduce a variety of fermented foods/ drinks into my diet.


Foods such as:

  • Sauerkraut- fermented cabbage
  • Kimchi- like sauerkraut but may contain different types of vegetables and often some type of dried or fermented fish product
  • Kefir- cultured dairy product similar to yogurt
  • Kombucha- Natural fermented drink



Not only will these fermented foods increase the beneficial microflora in the gut, but as they produce enzymes through the fermentation process, they are extremely helpful for improving nutrient absorption of the foods we eat.

Hopefully with being a little more gut TLC, my beneficial bacteria will be as they should and although the importance of this is still quite a mystery within the scientific world, I am pretty sure that with gut microflora having 150 times as many genes as the human genome (all the genetic information in a person), doing this is going to have a pretty good impact on my physical and mental well being.

Cheers kefir!



Before starting my masters I hadn’t heard of these ‘phytonutrients’. I didn’t know about their health boosting effects and how eating them then can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and ageing… In fact, it seems with vitamins and minerals getting all the good press these plant based warriors are often brushed to the side when we think about how food can affect our health.

Phytonutrients are the chemicals within plants which give them their amazing colours. There are more than 25000 types of phytonutrients (often with long and complicated names) which may be why in general, we don’t know a huge amount about them.  What we do know though is that within plants, phytonutrients are used to protect themselves from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. Therefore by eating these plants, it is thought that this ‘protective’ effect can help to reduce the occurrence of diseases in humans and help our bodies to work properly.

Although they are found in fruits and vegetables, phytonutrients are also found in teas, cereals, nuts, coffee, cocoa and wine! Yes!!


An amazing coffee shop in Vienna where I had a coffee with raspberry whip!

Resveratrol is the phytonutrient found in red wine and in studies has been found to reduce the development of coronary heart disease as it inhibits the oxidation of low- density lipoproteins (this is a major step in the development of the disease). Human studies looking at resveratrol have also found that resveratrol improved insulin resistance, blood flow, and various cardiovascular events, as well as decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.


Cocoa is filled with the phytonutrient epicatechin which also has loads of different benefits such as improving blood vessel function, blood pressure and decreasing inflammation. In fact, cocoa contains the highest levels of epicatechin compared to any other product with 43000mg/Kg. This is far greater than the second highest provider green tea which contains 8000mg/kg.

So although eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables will provide you with a variety of health improving phytonutrients, let’s not forget that in moderation, the nicer things in life are also good for us too! So next time you’re treating yourself to a bit of chocolate or a glass of red wine, enjoy it! Smile! And raise a toast to the phytonutrients!

Edible RainbowLaura




The week in the life of a vegan…

Last week I decided I would trial a vegan diet to try and understand the overall difficulties this way of eating can have. If done correctly, a vegan diet can be filled with a wide range of nutrients as obviously fruit and vegetable intake is much higher than a typical meat- eating diet. However, it can be difficult for strict vegans to get some micro-nutrients into the diet (specifically vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and omega 3) and often supplements and fortified foods may be needed to reach optimal health. Becoming vegan is however becoming more popular, especially because as a whole we are becoming more aware of how eating meat can effect our health as well as impacting on the environment. I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge and although I am quite comfortable in dropping the meat, ditching the dairy was much more difficult than I thought!

My overall observation of being a ‘vegan’ was that planning really was key. My usual routine of chucking a salad together in the morning for lunch wasn’t quite possible without the addition of cheese, tuna or even a boiled egg. I found this issue quite early on (on my first day in fact) when I grabbed what I thought was a bean chilli from the freezer as I didn’t have anything else to take to work. Over lunch however I quickly realised when heating it up was that in fact it was a chicken fajita mix! Oops!! First lesson of the day was to start labelling leftover frozen meals! Especially when shari
ng frozen space with a meat loving male.

After my initial errors I got into the mix of my new vegan lifestyle. I swapped mmilky beloved cow’s milk within my tea for a variety of dairy free milks that I picked up from a range of different shops… I must admit it didn’t quite taste the same and as a tea fiend, I did find that actually rather than battling on through trying to adjust, I found that fruit teas, green tea
and the plain old water stuff was becoming more my drink of choice… maybe this is another way that vegan’s are often given the golden halo of health?!

One thing I did really enjoy was having the opportunity to try out some new recipes. I made some bean stuffed potato skins with homemade guacamole which went down a treat, even if I did have to restart half way through due to a lack of pre-soaking my black beans haha. The organic health store packaging failed to mention that! Doh on my part. Thankfully there was sneaky stash of cannellini beans in the cupboard to save the day.

Other meals included lots of other bean dishes including refried bean, falafel, peppers and avocado wraps, vegetable kebabs, chickpea thai red curry and even a cheeky vege- burger on the bbq on a random warm April evening. I must admit, I did get a little sick of beans but maybe that was because I did base a lot of my meals on them. Thinking back, there are plenty other ways to get protein into a vegan diet including nuts, lentils and seeds. Maybe I needed to branch out a little more and get a little more adventurous!

Socially, I did feel slightly awkward with my new found eating habits going out and about with friends. In particular, I knew that going out for lunch with a friend may be difficult as I wasn’t too sure whether I would be able to find anything that would compliment her love of meat alongside my plant based needs. Thankfully I stumbled across an amazing restaurant in Cardiff called ATMA (https://www.facebook.com/cafeatma)  where I had a super yummy Indian vegan special dish and my friend was more than happy with her halloumi burger.


Overall, I enjoyed!! It was however much more restrictive then I thought it would be and I sometimes struggled to think of snacks and puddings which weren’t just purely fruit! I guess that might be why vegans notoriuosly have a lower energy intake and lower BMI than meat eaters. What I have learnt though is that I don’t need to rely on meat and dairy so heavily and that actually with a bit of imagination and making time for cooking from fresh, a vegan diet can be full of flavour, colours and nutrients! Maybe it’s not for me as a lifestyle choice but I am definitely now more aware of how much I rely on animals and actually with a few small changes I can not only consume less animal produce I can do my bit to help to reduce emissions through animal farming