Finding things to be cheerful about is tough right now. But one way to help boost your mood is through your diet – specifically, by 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 ensure we’re eating a completely balanced diet.
So, we asked experts to share a handful of key vitamin supplements that may help to support mental health, and keep your spirits high over the next few months.
1. Vitamin B12
B vitamins, like vitamin B12, are a common dietary deficiency in the UK, especially considering the rise of vegan diets. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in meat and fish, so if you’re trying to cut down on your consumption this year, you should consider taking a supplement and looking for foods that are fortified with the vitamin.
“B12 is essential for optimising our mood and mental performance, because it’s essential for the production of serotonin,” says dietician Sophie Medlin. She explains that serotonin is our ‘happy’ hormone; the neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of wellbeing in our brain.
“B12 deficiency can cause symptoms that mimic dementia, and deficiency is becoming more common as many people are moving to plant-based diets,” Medlin warns.
Elizabeth Stewart, registered associate nutritionist for Vitl says that there are other benefits to making sure you’re levels are topped up too. “As well as supporting mood, B12 maintains healthy red blood cells and DNA production, which is essential for feeling energised.”
2. Omega 3
A handful of small studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can help with mood disorders. Omega-3s are a family of polyunsaturated ‘healthy’ fats that are thought to have many health benefits, including a supporting role in your overall wellbeing.
“Omega 3s from fish oils form the structure of our brain when it’s at its healthiest,” explains Medlin. “When we aren’t getting enough in our diet, it affects our mood and our mental performance, too.”
Fish and other seafood, as well as nuts and seeds, are great sources of Omega-3s, but you can also take a supplement if you’re concerned you might not be getting enough through your diet.
Magnesium supports thousands of different reactions within the body, making it a really important nutrient in our diets.
One of its major roles is maintaining normal nerve and muscle function. “Magnesium can help to calm the nervous system, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety,” explains Medlin.
Pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds all contain magnesium, but many people are missing the mark and don’t reach the recommended daily intake. Feeling fatigued is a sign that you might not be getting enough, as well as muscle cramps and constipation.
Zinc plays an important role in supporting a healthy immune system, and it can also have a positive effect on your mental health too.
“Zinc deficiency causes a depressive-like state and anxiety behaviours, and it has been used in research to improve mood and cognitive function,” explains Medlin.
“This is because of the role it plays in crucial neurotransmitters that control our mental function and mood.”
Ashwagandha is an ancient herb that nutritionist Libby Limon, speaking on behalf of Link Nutrition, says can promote a feeling of calm, by helping to reduce stress.
She says: “Ashwagandha can help our bodies to restore balance by providing adrenal support and balancing the stress hormone cortisol.
“It also balances hormonal levels and provides potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, that help to support the immune system.
“Plus, it fights fatigue, providing adrenal support to boost energy levels, and increase stamina and endurance.”