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Need a mood booster? Try these foods

 Lorna Muthoni is in a pensive mood during an interview at the NIBS Technical College at Kimbo in Kiambu County on January 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Many studies have shown that diet plays a significant role in mental health. While food cannot cure clinical conditions like depression or anxiety, certain nutrients and ingredients have been scientifically proven to boost mood.According to nutrition expert Kepha Nyanumba, incorporating mood-enhancing foods regularly can support long-term emotional well-being.“As a nutritionist, I am often asked if certain foods can improve mood. The answer is yes - the foods you eat play an integral role in your brain health and can have a significant impact on your mood and emotions,” he says.Nyanumba explains that common mood-boosting foods include bananas, dark chocolate, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, strawberries and fatty fish.Ripe Bananas for instance are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to feel-good serotonin. The carbs aid tryptophan absorption into the brain. They also provide mood-protecting vitamin B6 and magnesium.Another mood food, dark chocolate, provides flavonoids. Studies show these antioxidants trigger endorphins and serotonin. When choosing chocolate, Nyanumba advises minimizing sugar intake with over 70 percent cocoa versions. Similarly, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds boast high doses of mood-elevating nutrients like magnesium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. These support neurotransmitter production critical for balanced mood.Nyanumba states that strawberries contain powerful antioxidants such as anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin and kaempferol that combat inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. By regulating neurological immune response, they allow neurotransmitters to signal efficiently.While strategic nutrition is promising for mood issues, these foods should complement professional mental healthcare when clinical disorders exist. Lifestyle approaches like exercise and quality sleep also remain critically important for mental wellbeing.

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