Whether you have consciously thought about it or not, you probably know on some level that there are some foods you eat that give you a mood boost and others that leave you feeling tired and weighed down. You also know that some foods are better energy foods than others. Think about the times you have eaten a heavy lunch or grabbed fast food only to find yourself drowsy in the afternoon and unable to concentrate. Then think about the times you have eaten a lighter lunch with good proteins, fruits and veggies and how different your afternoon went. Scientific study is supporting the results that we intrinsically know, that mood and energy can be influenced by what we eat. For example, a study in Public Health Nutrition reported people eating junk food regularly as being 51% more likely to have depression than people who hardly ever or never eat junk food. (http://ow.ly/qhPP1)
The Science Behind Energy Foods for a Mood Boost
Certain chemicals in the brain affect our moods. According to Gary Wenk, PhD, psychology and neuroscience professor at Ohio State University, foods are chemicals and are very like the chemicals in our brains (http://ow.ly/qhPP1). This is the reason foods can have a powerful influence. For example, since serotonin is a brain chemical that regulates mood, eating foods with the nonessential amino acid tryptophan which helps in producing serotonin, can give you a mood boost. Here are some components that make up the best energy foods and supplements for a mood boost.
Tryptophan – As mentioned in the above example, tryptophan helps in producing serotonin. Nuts such as pistachios, almonds and cashews are high in tryptophan. Tryptophan levels can also be increased by eating “good” carbohydrates. This would include whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
Omega-3 – Fish oil high in omega-3 fatty acids has been found through research studies to help prevent depression by affecting the brain’s neurotransmitter pathways. Omega-3 is vital to brain function and can be found in bluegreen algae, walnuts, fatty fish, and flaxseed.
Vitamin D – Serotonin levels are also increased by vitamin D. Getting 600 IU a day from foods has been shown to help with depression. Vitamin D can be found in fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel and raw fish is higher in vitamin D than cooked fish. If you are not a sushi fan, then look for vitamin D fortified cereal, dairy and soy products, white button mushrooms and possibly consider a cod liver oil supplement.
B Vitamins – The B vitamin folate, vitamin B9 to be precise, has been shown in research studies to reduce symptoms of depression. Folate aids the brain in producing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which are all brain chemicals affecting mood. Folate can be found in dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and in Brussel sprouts, beans such as pinto and garbanzo, asparagus, peanuts, soybeans, liver, lentils and sunflower seeds. Vitamin B6 deficiencies have also been identified as contributing to depression. Foods high in vitamin B6 include papaya and oranges, which are also high in folic acid, tuna, chicken, turkey, rice and wheat bran, garlic, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
PEA – PEA, which stands for phenylethylamine, is a naturally occurring substance in the human body that is linked to energy, mood, and attention. PEA is a vital part of your brain function and is responsible for feelings of pleasure as well as mental acuity. In one study, adding 10-60 mg per day decreased depression symptoms in study participants by 60%. In another study, PEA was shown to elevate mood and increase the quality of life. Not getting enough PEA can make it difficult to learn new things, make quick decisions, form new memories, stick to a diet, find pleasure in life and be in a good mood. According to the Natural Research Council of Canada, two foods very high in PEA are AFA blue-green algae and cheddar cheese.
Selenium – There have also been studies linking a lack of selenium as negatively affecting mood. One such study reported that adding 200 micrograms daily of selenium for seven weeks to the diet improved mild and moderate depression. The normally recommended amount of selenium to get a day is 55 micrograms (http://ow.ly/qi456). Too much selenium can be bad for you so it is better to get this from foods such as oysters, clams, crab, sardine and fish, nuts and seeds, lean meats, whole grains, beans and legumes than from supplements.
Chocolate – Dark chocolate has been known for quite a while give one a mood boost. While it is not exactly clear how this works, there are theories that it has to do with the antioxidant polyphenols in it, that it has carbs that boost serotonin, that it contains chemicals that can boost dopamine levels or that it is high in PEA. Whatever the reason, dark chocolate is a tasty way to get your mood boost. Just don’t overdo it since it also has more calories than other mood boosting alternatives.
St. John’s Wort – This plant based herbal supplement has been used for many years in alternative medicine for a mood boost. A 2009 review of 29 different studies done internationally on this herb found it to be effective in treating mild and moderate depression and to perform as well in these cases as many prescription antidepressants. This is thought to be due to the herb’s ability to stop reabsorption of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin by the brain’s nerve cells. There are some medications that do not react well with St. John’s Wort, so be sure you consult your healthcare provider before using it.
Algae and Coenzyme Q10 Supplement – One of our favorite energy foods for a mood boost is this supplement with ubiquinol, the active and bioavailable form of Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is one of the best-known supplements for heart health. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, this coenzyme is also good for mood. That is because the heart “shen” is responsible for the feeling of joy, thus a healthy heart equals a joyful mood. Scientifically, this coenzyme also shows positive effects on mood. According to Chris D. Meletis, ND, “The antioxidant coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may possess antidepressant properties, according to a new study published in January 2013… ‘The researchers concluded… CoQ10 may have a potential therapeutic value for the management of depressive disorders.'”
Hopefully you now have some new ideas on energy foods that can give you a mood boost and how they work with your body. Many of these are just common sense healthy eating. Add in a few specialized supplements, vitamins and minerals and you’ll be on your way to keeping your mood and energy levels up and working for you.
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