It’s hard to find something to be happy about right now. But one way to improve your mood is to eat right, specifically making sure you get the right vitamins and minerals your body needs to function optimally.
In an ideal world, we would get all the nutrients we need from the food we put on our plates, but the reality is that life is hectic and we can’t always be sure that we’re eating a completely balanced diet.
So, we asked the experts to share some key vitamin supplements that can help keep you mentally healthy and uplifting for months to come.
1. Vitamin B12
B vitamins such as B12 are a common dietary deficiency in the UK, especially with the rise in popularity of vegan diets. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in meat and fish, so if you’re trying to cut down on your intake this year, you should consider taking supplements and look for foods fortified with this vitamin.
“B12 is essential for optimizing our mood and mental performance because it is essential for the production of serotonin,” says nutritionist Sophie Medlin. She explains that serotonin is our “happy” hormone; a neurotransmitter that promotes a sense of well-being in our brain.
“A B12 deficiency can cause symptoms that mimic dementia, and the deficiency is becoming more common as many people switch to a plant-based diet,” warns Medlin.
Elizabeth Stewart, Vitl Associate Registered Dietitian, says there are other benefits to making sure your levels are up. “In addition to improving mood, vitamin B12 supports healthy red blood cells and DNA production, which is essential for feeling alert.”
2. Omega 3
Several small studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help with mood disorders. Omega-3s are a family of “healthy” polyunsaturated fats that are thought to provide many health benefits, including overall well-being.
“The omega-3s in fish oils shape the structure of our brains when they are at their healthiest,” explains Medlin. “When we don’t get enough food, it also affects our mood and mental performance.”
Read more: Amazing Transformation of My Body in 10 Weeks with a Vegan Diet
Fish and other shellfish, as well as nuts and seeds, are great sources of omega-3s, but you can also take supplements if you’re worried you’re not getting enough from your diet.
Magnesium supports thousands of different reactions in the body, making it a really important nutrient in our diet.
One of its main functions is to maintain the normal function of the nerves and muscles. “Magnesium can help calm the nervous system, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety,” explains Medlin.
Legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds contain magnesium, but many people don’t reach their goal of reaching their recommended daily allowance. Feeling tired is a sign that you may not be getting enough, as well as muscle spasms and constipation.
Zinc plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system and can also have a positive impact on your mental health.
“Zinc deficiency causes depression and anxiety behavior and has been used in studies to improve mood and cognitive function,” explains Medlin.
“This is due to its role in critical neurotransmitters that control our mental function and mood.”
Ashwagandha is an ancient herb that nutritionist Libby Lemon, speaking on behalf of Link Nutrition, says can induce feelings of calmness by helping to reduce stress.
She says: “Ashwagandha can help our bodies rebalance by providing adrenal support and balancing the stress hormone cortisol.
“It also balances hormone levels and has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help support the immune system.
“In addition, it fights fatigue, provides adrenal support for increased energy levels and improved endurance.”