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Go to any pet store and you’ll see a vast array of different diets for your dog or cat. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to spend considerable time (and money) to ensure that their pets receive the optimum nutrition for their health and well being.

So why is it we don’t take as much care for our own health? Especially as it now well recognised how our choice of food impacts our thinking, mood and memory.

As workloads increase in volume and complexity, our stress levels have been rising faster than the sea. As we feel more stressed, our ability to think well and stay focused is reduced and we become more irritable and snappy.

In the US over 9 million dogs are born each year while 2.2 million are euthanized, in the majority of cases for aggressive or other behavioural problems. The role of diet in aggressive behaviour is currently being investigated in veterinary science and some studies have shown how making dietary changes can assist in reducing canine aggression.

While it’s not normal procedure to euthanize badly behaving or unhappy humans it does beg the question, what are we doing to our own behaviour through poor food choices?

It’s well recognised that a diet high in trans-fats, sugar and salt is detrimental to brain health. While we sometimes like to reward ourselves if we’ve had a bit of a bad hair day with a packet of chocolate biscuits or tub of connoisseur ice cream, that reward is only temporary as the excess fat and sugar then leads to a further lowering of mood.

Which foods boost your mood?

Foods containing tryptophan are useful to the brain as a precursor to serotonin the neurochemical associated with feeling well and calm. 90% of serotonin is produced in your gut. Foods such as turkey, almonds and dairy are useful. While turkey isn’t as popular food in Australia as in the US, why not try some in a salad, a wrap or curry.

Omega three fatty acids as found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, walnuts, flax seed and leafy greens such as kale and spinach have been linked to mood. Low levels are associated with an increased risk of depression.

That’s because the omega three fatty acids contribute to the flexibility of our cell membranes allowing those important neurotransmitters including serotonin to pass through

While there are many varieties of omega three supplements available, none work as well as the real thing. Eating fish 2-3 times a week or obtaining your fatty acids from alternative vegetarian sources is the best way to go.

Of course there’s one other thing that fuels your mood and it’s one to share with your dog. Going for a walk boosts serotonin and dopamine levels elevating your mood, making you feel calm and rewarded and of course doesn’t add any calories.

So if you’ve noticed things are getting on top of you more than usual, or that life is taking on more than 50 shades of grey, check in with what you’re eating and ensure you are including enough leafy greens, oily fish, nuts and eggs and perhaps take the dog for a walk too.

You’ll both feel the benefit.

Have you found that what you eat affects your mood and performance?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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