This is crazy

  • The dietary deficiency linked to mental health problems 
  • Eat more of this to give your mood a big boost 
  • How to get your omega-3s without fish

Last weekend was a big test for the country.

The first really sunny, warm weather for most of Britain and nobody was supposed to be outside in it!

Or at least, they were allowed out for one piece of exercise then supposed to get right back home.

It was government lockdown rules…

No sunbathing, no picnicking, no meeting up with friends.

Which is crazy, really.

But then these are crazy times.

We’re in a situation where we all need to be getting exercise and vitamin D to help bolster our immune systems, and yet we’re being told to avoid going outside at all costs.

As you’d expect, loads of people either broke or bent those rules.

I find it amazing how during isolation people suddenly find activities attractive which they didn’t do before. They get sudden strong urges to do the opposite to what they’ve been told.

For instance, I have walked my dog around my part of town for years and rarely bumped into anyone on weekdays.

Certainly I didn’t know anyone without a dog who habitually “went for a daily walk”.


Everyone’s suddenly out walking, as if it has been their habit for years.

As for jogging, I think half the street has taken it up.

Same goes for vitamin D, the benefits of which I’ve been extolling to friends and family for years, often to glazed looks.

Now I’m seeing tonnes of people online raging about being denied their vitamin D top ups if the government extends the clampdown and bans daily exercises.

So if there’s one good thing about all this it’s that MAYBE when the worst of the crisis is over, we’ll have a nation of people who love to exercise, get out walking in the sunshine, and know the crucial benefits of vitamin D.

That is only maybe, of course.

My hunch is that when it’s all over and they’re free to skip, run, and play wherever they like, people will go back to sitting on their couch and watching telly on Saturdays.

I don’t mean YOU, of course. You’re a Good Life Letter reader who knows all this stuff very well indeed. I’m talking about everyone else 😊.

Of course, the main reason so many people are desperate to get out of the house is that they’re bored and either stuck on their own, or with relatives who are starting to get on their nerves.

Cabin fever is everywhere!

So for the coming weeks the biggest obstacle is keeping yourself calm and happy while indoors.

As I mentioned last Friday, there are some practical ways you can – and should – stimulate your brain to keep yourself in a good mood and come out of this crisis with something positive.

If you missed it, then take a look at this post on The Good Life Letter website: Lockdown Brain Hacks Revealed

That should give you a few ideas.

However, today I wanted to look at ways that food can give your mood a boost…

Foods that make you happier

Rachel Kelly is author of The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food.  In her research she has discovered that 90% of serotonin (the chemical responsible for your mood) is made in the digestive tract.

So there’s a huge link between our gut health and brain health.

She claims that she ate her way out of depression by boosting her intake of mackerel, tuna and salmon.

It sounds simplistic but there is a scientific foundation to it.

For instance, in 2009 there was a systematic literature review entitled Fish consumption, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cognitive decline or Alzheimer disease.  In three of the studies, omega-3s were shown to help slow the ageing process of the brain.

Then in 2010 a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that omega-3s may slow down the shortening of telomeres.

Telomeres are structures that help support, stabilise and replicate your chromosomes. Some scientists believe that by keeping telomeres healthier for longer, omega-3 fatty acids protect against the ageing process on a cellular level.

So even if you want to keep your brain young and active, omega-3 oils are key – and in consuming more of them, you should notice better mood too.

Professor Carmine Pariante, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, says:

“Even a short course of a nutritional supplement containing one type of omega-3 fatty acid (EPA) reduces the rates of new-onset depression to 10%, as opposed to the rate of 30% we usually see in this group.”

This is backed up by John Stein, an Oxford professor and adviser to the Institute of Food, Brain and Behaviour. He believes that the rise in mental health problems in the modern age is down to the fact that we don’t eat the same amount of fish as our prehistoric predecessors.

Fish is a vital source of omega-3 fatty acids and crucial for brain development. Shellfish in particular played a huge part in our evolution, when primitive humans lived on the African coast and that was their primary food source.

Since then men have conquered the globe and triumphed (or failed perhaps) as the dominant species, but we are biologically no different to our ancestors on the South African coast.

Foods like shellfish, or rather, the OILS that are prevalent in shellfish, are still important.

This is why we recommend krill oil.

Its most powerful effects are produced by astaxanthin which isn’t in regular fish oil. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier to protect and stimulate the brain for a better mood, better memory and clearer thinking.

Of course, if you hate fish, or can’t eat it for ethical or health reasons, then you can also boost your intake of walnuts, flaxseed and green leafy vegetables which are full of omega-3 fatty acids.

Greens are also rich in magnesium, which is important for both your brain function and mood.

I realise that shopping is a lot harder right now, with many products selling out before you can buy them, but do try to get hold of those greens if you can – they’re the key to staying healthy and positive.