Veganuary, Dry January, various resolutions…it’s all just about the come crashing down in a blur of g’n’t, steak and gym avoidance. Don’t let it be this way; you’ve done so well. Indeed, though new research recently released by Love Fresh Cherries and Opinium shows that a third of Brits (34 per cent) find it difficult to stay positive in January, there are ways to exit this gloomiest of months with spirits high (no, not that gin) and goals aligned for February. 

One of the main ways to keep focused and happy is through a continued healthy diet. Though that needn’t mean continuing to be completely plant-based in your approach as the year gathers pace, carrying on with that holistic, healthy approach to eating which Veganuary inspired is certainly no bad thing. With that in mind, here are 7 IDEAL foods to boost your mood.

CHERRIES

As nutritionist Anita Bean succinctly puts it, “we all have times when we feel down in the dumps, but lifestyle factors such as eating a healthy diet containing lots of fruit and vegetables, being active, getting outside in the fresh air as much as possible and spending time with loved ones can really help to lift our moods”. 

This is where cherries come in; these magic fruits help your brain to produce the mood-enhancing hormone serotonin, ideal for regulating your emotions and keeping your outlook positive. They are also a rich food source of the hormone melatonin which promotes healthy sleep patterns. What’s more, they’re absolutely delicious. Result! 

NUTS

Studies have shown that eating a handful of nuts every day can increase levels of that lovely serotonin we previously mentioned, the hormone that makes us feel happier and decreases feelings of hunger. Indeed, research has even suggested that cashews can fight the symptoms of depression. Great news for those who love the elliptically shaped nut. 

DARK CHOCOLATE

Wonderful news for chocoholics everywhere, the dark stuff (70% or above, all the way, amirite?) contains high levels of phenols, which cause the brain to release endorphins and boost mood. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that chocolate is high in calories, and low mood might follow a binge, so keep portions small. 

OILY FISH LIKE SALMON, SARDINES AND MACKEREL

Phew, we thought it was going to be another month of enforced abstinence on the meat and fish front, but thank the lord, we have an excuse to eat fish again! This is because the oily stuff contains high levels of omega-3s, low levels of which are linked with depression. Omega-3s are important for the proper function of the brain and can also have a positive impact on mood.

Remember to shop sustainably where fish is concerned; check out the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide for up to date information.

BANANAS

Is there anything the humble banana can’t do? It arrives complete with its own, natural packaging, and even when they’re overripe, they can be used in amazing leftover creations (banana bread, we looking at you), but most importantly of all for this piece, they’re high in tryptophan and vitamin B6, essential for making serotonin whilst also containing carbohydrates, which trigger the production of insulin and raise serotonin levels in the brain. They look funny, too.  

PUMPKIN SEEDS

Sure, most of us scoop out those seeds when we’re carving up a pumpkin or squash, and send them straight into that compost bin of ours, but hold it right there. They are one of the best sources of tryptophan, which is the building block for serotonin (our happy hormone), so instead, roast up your pumpkin seeds with a little oil and enjoy as a delicious, depression-busting snack.

OATS

With a low glycaemic index, oats are a great source of slow-release energy; this will prevent blood sugar spikes and in turn stop you getting tired and moody. Check out the Kitchn’s piece on 13 wonderful ways to eat oats for some inspiration.