The festive period should be a time to relax and have fun with your loved ones but for many of us it also brings an equal and unwelcome dose of stress: last minute shopping, cooking dinner for 12, meeting the in-laws... Studies have shown that certain foods can act to temporarily make you feel calmer. So if you expect to feel some stress and anxiety this Christmas, here are 5 foods you may want to add into your diet to help boost your mood and improve cognition!
1. Turkey and Tryptophan
Turkey is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is naturally converted in the brain to serotonin. Research suggests it can have a positive effect on stress because it encourages your brain to produce feel-good chemicals.  Other tryptophan rich foods include chicken, soybeans, bananas, cereals, nuts milk and cheese.
2. Whole Wheat Bread and Carbs
To increase serotonin levels with food, the best strategy involves eating foods containing tryptophan as well as proper carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are responsible for helping drive tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier, where it is converted into serotonin. Try and eat healthy carb options such as whole grain bread, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
3. Beef and Vitamin B rich food
Some believe there is a correlation between improved mood and B Vitamins. A recent study suggested that oral doses of both folic acid (800 µg daily) and vitamin B12 (1 mg daily) should be tried to improve treatment outcome in depression.  Eating Vitamin B rich foods like beef and pork can help to improve your mood and anxiety, so enjoy those pigs in blankets!
4. Fish and Omega-3
The health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, continue to grow and some studies have concluded it can act to uplift and enhance your mood. 
5. Greek Yoghurt and Protein rich foods
Eating foods high in protein can improve alertness, mental energy and reaction time.  Proteins help to stimulate the production of brain chemicals such as dopamine, which carries impulses between nerve cells. Good meat-free sources of protein include greek yoghurt, eggs, beans, lentils and nuts.
 Kroes MC, et al., ‘Food can lift mood by affecting mood-regulating neurocircuits via a serotonergic mechanism,’ Neuroimage, 2014 Jan, 1:84, pp.825-32.
 Coppen A., Bolander-Gouaille C., ‘ Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12,’ J Psychopharmacol, Jan 2005, vol. 19, no.1, p. 59-65
 Harrarr S.,‘Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders,’ Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 14 No. 1 p.22
 Leidy, H.J., et al., ‘Consuming High-Protein Soy Snacks Affects Appetite Control, Satiety, and Diet Quality in Young People and Influences Select Aspects of Mood and Cognition,’ Journal of Nutrition, Jul 2015,145(7), p.1614-22