Food and Mood
In a fast food world with budget concerns and rising food costs, good nutrition tends to be put on the proverbial back burner. What most people don’t realize are the mental health consequences of not giving the brain the nutrients it needs to function properly. Certain food choices can and steer a person into a good mood. The following is a brief rundown on some specific foods and how they interact with our mood and overall sense of well being.
- Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation as people strive for quick weight loss fixes. The caveat of this is that carbs boost the ability of tryptophan to make serotonin, the “feel good” chemical in the brain. Low serotonin can leave a person irritable, anxious, and craving starchy or sweet foods. It’s recommended to eat five or more whole grain servings per day including whole wheat breads, cereals, pasta, as well as sweet potatoes.
- Studies have also shown that low intake of Folic Acid, vitamin B6, B12, Riboflavin and Niacin is related to depression. It has been found that greater than one in four people with depression are deficient in B vitamins such as these. Food sources for vitamin B include a variety of foods such as asparagus, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, bananas, liver, pork fish, sunflower seeds, carrots, oranges and whole grains.
- Omega- 3 fatty acids also have a powerful effect on the brain and are found in fish such salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout. Studies have shown up to a 50% reduction in symptoms of clinical depression after an increase in omega- 3 consumption. Increasing fish consumption raises both omega-3 levels and serotonin levels. Two servings a week of fish is recommended or taking a supplement is another option.
- Low levels of zinc may also leave a person irritable and depressed. Food sources include liver, crab, oysters, milk, wheat germ and almonds. Limiting sugar and caffeine may help relieve depression. Replace sugary foods and beverages with nutrient packed food such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals.
Of course, a good diet is no substitute for individuals who may benefit from medication to help with severe depression. However, making good food choices can provide a solid foundation toward the improvement of mood. It is a key component in the connection between one’s body and mind.