It’s hard right now to find things to be happy about. But one way to help improve your mood is through your diet, specifically, making sure you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best.
In an ideal world, we’d get all the nutrients we need from the food we put on our plates, but the reality is that life is busy and we can’t always be sure we’re eating a perfectly balanced diet.
So, we asked experts to share some key vitamin supplements that can help maintain mental health and keep your spirits up for the months to come.
1. Vitamin B12
B vitamins, such as B12, are a common dietary deficiency in the UK, particularly given the increase in vegetarian diets. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in meat and fish, so if you’re trying to cut down on it this year, you should consider taking a supplement and look for foods rich in the vitamin.
“B12 is essential for optimizing our mood and mental performance, as it is necessary for the production of serotonin,” says dietician Sophie Madeline. She explains that serotonin is our “happy” hormone; Neurotransmitter that promotes a sense of well-being in our brain.
Medlin cautions, “B12 deficiency can cause symptoms that mimic dementia, and deficiency is becoming more common.”
Elizabeth Stewart, Vital Associate Registered Nutritionist, says there are other benefits to making sure your levels are topped up, too. “In addition to improving mood, vitamin B12 supports healthy red blood cells and DNA production, which is essential for feeling energized.”
2. Omega 3
A handful of small studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help with mood disorders. Omega-3s are a family of “healthy” polyunsaturated fats that are believed to have many health benefits, including a supporting role in your general well-being.
“The omega-3s in fish oil make up the structure of our brain when it’s at its healthiest,” Medlin explains. “When we don’t get enough in our diet, it affects our mood and mental performance as well.”
Read more: Amazing transformation of my body in 10 weeks thanks to vegetarian diet
Fish and other shellfish, as well as nuts and seeds, are excellent sources of omega 3, but you can also take a supplement if you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough through your diet.
Magnesium supports thousands of different reactions within the body, making it a really important nutrient to have in our diets.
One of its main functions is to maintain the normal function of nerves and muscles. “Magnesium can help calm the nervous system, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety,” Medlin explains.
Legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds all contain magnesium, but many people miss the mark and fall short of the recommended daily intake. Feeling tired is a sign that you’re not getting enough, as well as muscle cramps and constipation.
Zinc plays an important role in supporting a healthy immune system and can also have a positive effect on your mental health.
“Zinc deficiency causes depressive states and anxiety behaviors, and has been used in research to improve mood and cognitive function,” Medlin explains.
“This is due to its role in important neurotransmitters that regulate our mental function and mood.”
Ashwagandha is an ancient herb that nutritionist Libby Limon, speaking on behalf of Link Nutrition, says can promote a sense of calm by helping to reduce stress.
She says, “Ashwagandha can help restore balance to our bodies by providing adrenal support and balancing the stress hormone cortisol.
“It also balances hormone levels and provides powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help support the immune system.
“Plus, it fights fatigue, provides adrenal support to boost energy levels and build stamina.”