Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Good Mood Food

What with all the election goings on, the dire financial situation and the terrible news of world wide, as well as our own tragedies, it is no wonder that so many of you have asked for help with "low mood" problems this month. Surprisingly, simple foods and herbs can be an enormous help;

When granny said: 'Eat your fish, it will make you brainy' she wasn't far off the mark. All the oily fish contain essential fatty acids, which makes them vital foods for any woman who's planning to have a baby, who's pregnant or breast-feeding. The fatty acids form a major part of the developing baby's brain tissue and there's now substantial evidence that women whose diets are very low in fish oils have children who tend to be slower at mental development.

But it's not just the oily fish which make good brain food; the protein in all fish provides some of the slow-release energy which helps to keep a constant supply of blood sugar flowing to the brain. This is exactly what it needs to function consistently, and to help fight feelings of low mood.

While all forms of protein are good brain nourishment, it's important to avoid the negative effects of animal protein which contain large amounts of saturated fat. Poultry, game and lean free-range beef are ideal, especially if you remove all visible fat and avoid eating the skin on chicken, duck or turkey.

Saturated fat can lead to raised cholesterol, fatty deposits in the arteries and narrowing of the blood vessels which supply the brain - and that's often the first step towards declining brain function.

For the same reasons, wholegrain cereals, all the beans, garlic, leeks and onions should be regular ingredients in your cerebral eating plan. All of these foods help the body to get rid of excessive amounts of cholesterol and so work towards keeping the levels of this damaging deposit healthily low, ensuring the maintenance of an adequate and continuous blood supply which carries essential nutrients to every cell in the brain, which makes them all good mood foods.

Modest amounts of alcohol are good news for your brain, too. The high levels of anti-oxidants which prevent brain cell damage are a major component of red wines, so a couple of glasses a day are great ally in the maintenance of good mental function. Alcohol itself is also valuable whether it comes from white wine, beer, spirits or liqueurs - in small amounts it has the effect of opening up the tiniest blood vessels at the end of the circulatory system and improving blood flow to the brain.

That's the good news - and is true if you consume two or three glasses of wine, two or three pub measures of spirits or up to two pints of beer a day. The bad news is that once you start to exceed these quantities, alcohol has exactly the opposite effect and makes these minute vessels contract, depriving the brain of blood and leading to rapid deterioration in mental ability and severe depression

Herbs and spices have a vital role as brain foods - and they work in various ways. Some have their effect on mood and emotion, like basil, nutmeg, lemon balm and coriander. Others have a more direct impact on mental function. The two most powerful of these are sage, synonymous with wisdom, and rosemary, which has been linked with improved memory since the times of the ancient Greeks.

The most important of the spices is chilli, which has an almost immediate effect on the circulation, opening up the tiniest blood vessels leading to an almost instant rush of blood to the head. This accounts for the beads of sweat on the forehead within seconds of your first mouthful of a strong chilli con carne.

Ginger comes a pretty close second and will also provide really quick brain and mood stimulation whether taken as tea, a sprinkle of powder on your melon or fresh in a stir-fry.

When it comes to Good Mood herbal remedies, there is nothing as effective as St John's Wort. This traditional herbal medicine can help relieve the symptoms of low mood and has repeatedly been shown in tests, to be as effective for the treatment of mild to moderate depression as conventional drugs, but without the side effects or risk of dependence.

Karma is the first St John's wort product registered by the MHRA for sale in the UK; for more info and to buy Karma at the special trial price of just £2 (normally £14.99) go to:

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