In the past doctors and scientists did not believe that mood and food were linked, but nutrition and neuroscience research today are making many rethink that position. Studies have shown that there is a definite link between mood and food. For example, many studies have reported an increased level of depression, anxiety, mood swings and other mental and emotional conditions in participants who eat lots of processed foods. One such study showed a 42% increased risk of depression for adults with diets high in trans fats such as found in processed foods. There is hope though for improving mental health and mood through changes in diet. Research studies are also showing that a change in diet can change chemical and physiological changes in the brain which can in turn change behavior and mood.
So what kinds of foods can help us keep an upbeat, positive mood? Here are a few of the missing links for many people in the mood and food connection that can be added to the diet to keep an upbeat mood.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain by the nonessential amino acid, tryptophan. Serotonin works as a mood regulator, contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness and helps decrease food cravings. Foods high in carbohydrates without protein or fat added can increase the amount of tryptophan you get as well as how much actually gets into the brain through the bloodstream. High protein and fat foods suppress serotonin when their amino acids compete with tryptophan keeping it from getting to the brain. Simple carbohydrates that are easy to digest will give an immediate mood boost and complex carbohydrates which take longer to digest boost mood over a longer period. When adding carbohydrates into your diet as a mood and food solution to boost your mood, look for foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Since the brain is important to mood and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid is important to brain health, it only makes sense that eating foods high in omega-3s will help with mood. This is shown to be true in a study from the Harvard School of Public Health that reported women with diets high in omega-3 and low in omega-6 showed significantly less risk of depression. In the mood and food connection, omega-3 serves to increase serotonin levels in the brain and have an effect on the brain’s neurotransmitter pathways. Foods high in omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, canola and olive oils, and bluegreen algae. Omega-3 has been found so good at reducing symptoms of depression that one study scheduled for 9 months on participants with bi-polar disorder was discontinued after only 4 months because of the mood balancing attributed to increased omega-3. If you have concerns about eating fish due to mercury, there are fish that are still high in omega-3, but low in mercury. If you are just not a fish eater, bluegreen algae is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid.
Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that is known to increase serotonin levels. 600 IU a day of vitamin D from food sources is the most common recommendation. This can vary from person to person and may be something you will want to check out with your health care provider to find the optimal amount recommended for you. Folate, vitamin B9, is used in the brain to synthesize mood chemicals. Research at Harvard Medical School has reported that increasing folate in depressed patients shows an improvement in mood. Oranges and papaya which are high in both vitamin B6 and folic acid have been studied in regards to depression. Results indicate that people showing symptoms of depression do not have enough vitamin B6 or folic acid in their diets. To get more folate in your diet, add dark green leafy vegetables like brussel sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, spinach and asparagus and foods such as lentils, avocado, mango, oranges, and wheat bread.
Superfood Mood Booster
Here’s another natural mood booster tip to add to your mood and food solutions. This powerful superfood capsule of bluegreen algae combined with reishi and oyster mushrooms, ubiquinol, and polyphenols from olives was created to activate cellular energy for heart support. Ubiquinol is a form of Coenzyme Q10 that is found in almost all our cells, tissues and organs and is a potent antioxidant that has been shown in studies to have antidepressant properties. Reishi mushrooms are known for their ability to help the body to maintain balance which can include emotional and mental balance. Oyster mushrooms are high in B vitamins that aid brain health. You can see how this combination of superfoods can be a tremendous aid for mood support.
Probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidus are natural occurring “good” bacteria in the body. 90% of these good bacteria are in the intestines and they play an important role in the production of neurotransmitters. They are also important in producing and absorption of B vitamins. So you may have never considered that your intestinal system plays a significant role in the link between mood and food, but you can see now how it does. The naturally occurring probiotics in our systems are constantly being killed off by a variety of lifestyle conditions, so supplementing your diet with acidophilus and bifidus is a great way to support digestive health and keep replacing your system’s “good” bacteria which in turn leads to mood boosting support.
It’s not all that hard to make the connection between mood and food and by just making a few dietary changes, eating your way to a happier you.