Eat your way to a happy future

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A recent study revealed that tomatoes have wonder-powers for reducing depression. Here’s a round-up of other foods that could help banish the blues in the New Year.

They’ve been livening up salads and pasta sauces for decades. But the humble tomato has far more going for it than just its bold colour and flavour.

A recent study led by Dr Kaijun Niu from China’s Tianjin Medical University found that tomatoes can have a significant impact on beating depression.

They’re packed full of lycopene, which can reduce stress while also protecting against a number of major diseases including heart attacks and cancer.

Though the exact reason can’t be pinpointed, researchers studying the diets and mental health of 1,000 people aged over 70 in Japan found that those who ate at least two tomatoes a week were happier than those who didn’t.

Dieticians and nutritionists have long advocated the importance of what we eat on our mental wellbeing.

“Tomatoes are packed with folate, which is involved in a reaction in the brain that has been proved to increase your sense of wellbeing,” says dietician Priya Tew (www.dietitianuk.co.ukwww.dietitianuk.co.uk ).

We’ve rounded up 10 of the top blues-beating foods to help kickstart a healthy 2013.

Eggs

Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you that the way to happiness is by drinking raw eggs! But their high protein content does keep you feeling full and alert, and eggs also contain Omega-3, zinc, B vitamins and iodide, which is useful for maintaining healthy teeth, hair, nails and thyroid function. The previously shunned yolk is in for a comeback, too, as it’s packed with vitamins D and B12, perfect for getting those serotonin levels up. “

D vitamins definitely have an impact on your mood, and are involved in energy release,” says Tew.

Garlic

This cheap and popular herb doesn’t just add flavour to your cooking - it has a long list of health-enhancing qualities too. For starters, it increases blood flow around your body, boosting both energy and mood. Eaten raw, whether whole or chopped up into a salad, garlic boosts serotonin levels and overall wellbeing. Just be sure to pocket some minty chewing gum if you do make a habit of chomping on raw garlic...

Dark chocolate

It’s true what they say about eating chocolate making you feel better - the combination of its smooth texture and sweet flavour releases mood-elevating endorphins. Not that we needed an excuse! “There hasn’t been any hard evidence of this,” says Tew. “

But they do release serotonin into your brain, which can improve your feelings of happiness.” The health benefits only apply to dark chocolate, with at least 60% cocoa content. Unlike the milk version, dark chocolate is lower in fat and sugar and also contains antioxidants.