Foods that will lift your spirits

266
Photograph: Jonathan Pincas

January is now in full swing, but who’s been keeping to their resolutions of a happier, healthy new you? (Is that a tumbleweed I see roll past?). It’s difficult to make healthy changes to your diet, but with a few so called ‘superfoods’ you can really notice a change in your mood that will leave you feeling more alert, perkier and glowing, whilst the perpetual grey skies of Lancaster loom overhead.

Due to the aforementioned grey skies, us students may find ourselves lacking in vitamin D. There is absolutely no way that we can get our daily intake from the sun like we would in other places or in other seasons. A lack of vitamin D can really affect your mood and cause lethargy, and you are particularly at risk as a vegetarian or milk allergy sufferer. Fortunately vitamin D occurs naturally in a few foods, including some fish, egg yolks and in fortified dairy and grain products such as cereals.

Oats are great to improve your overall sense of wellbeing. This is because they have a low glycaemic index (GI), as they slowly release energy into our bloodstream, rather than by a quick rush that soon dips. This helps to keep your blood sugar and mood stable. Why not try porridge for breakfast as a healthy start to the day?

The humble blackberry is filled with antioxidants, soluble fibre and folic acid. Low levels of folic acid have been linked to depression: increasing your intake of soluble fibre can prevent fatigue by up to ten percent. Grabbing a handful of blackberries in the morning will really make a difference to your day, ensuring you feel more energetic and able to pay attention during those painful morning lectures. If you were feeling particularly healthy you could even go all out and add some blackberries to your porridge tomorrow morning. For those who like to count calories, these little miracles are great news, coming in at just twelve calories per ounce.

Another alternative porridge topping is a sprinkling of almonds. Although relatively high in calories and quite expensive, almonds are a ‘superfood’ that cannot be ignored. Whether it’s due to my mother waving bags of the things under my nose my entire life in order ‘to get protein’, or the recommendations of most nutritionists, almonds can really provide you with many health benefits. They are rich in vitamin E, meaning that they are especially helpful for your hair and skin to create a glowing complexion, even during the winter months.

Despite Popeye’s best efforts, spinach is often considered to be unappetising by most and avoided in the aisles of Sainsburys. However when cooked or ‘wilted’ (don’t let that put you off), in a chickpea and sweet potato curry, it is barely noticeable, yet provides a great source of vitamin B. Certain deficiencies in B vitamins have been linked to depression – serotonin production can actually be hindered by low B vitamin levels. Eating green leafy vegetables such as spinach or broccoli will help keep your levels up.

We all know that a big slab of chocolate will superficially improve your mood. But if you nibble on some dark chocolate (the higher percentage of cocoa the better), this can scientifically help to release anxiety, which is perfect if you are struggling with essay stress at the moment. A small square of dark chocolate can cause the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels. You could try the ‘Divine’ range of dark chocolate which contains seventy percent cocoa and comes in flavours such as raspberry, ginger and orange.