Is there really a happy pill? Well, we’re certain there are several of the legal and non-legal varieties, but that is not the type of happy pills we’re talking about or advising. We’re talking about the fact that certain foods can give your mood a lift while certain other foods can actually negatively affect your mood. In that sense there are wholefood supplements with many of the foods that act as mood boosters that can act as a happy pill. According to Diane M. Becker MPH, ScD, director of the Center for Health Promotion at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, eating a diet without much saturated fat and that has a lot of fiber helps as a mood booster. Experts also know that eating in a way that keeps blood sugar levels stable and that supports your digestive system sets you in the right direction for good mood. In addition, there are certain brain chemicals that create good feelings and mood and certain foods that help produce these chemicals. Serotonin is one of these mood regulators and produces feelings of calmness and happiness. Foods, such as nuts, whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that have the good carbs contain the nonessential amino acid tryptophan which helps in producing serotonin. Asparagus is also a very high source of tryptophan and it also has high levels of folate. Serotonin levels are also increased by folate or vitamin B9 and vitamin D. According to Pamela K. Murphy, PhD, at the Medical University of South Carolina, 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day is needed for mood management. We mostly get vitamin D from being in the sun, but there are also supplements and a few foods such as fatty fish, cheeses, yolks of eggs, beef liver and fortified cereals, breads and milk that can provide it.
Endorphins are another way the body has to boost mood. Endorphins are hormones that act as mood boosters and that some experts believe act as a natural painkiller. Capsaicin found in hot peppers causes endorphins to be released as does laughing, exposure to sunlight and exercising.
Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, M.D., authors of The Happiness Diet, remind us that healthy fats are vital to brain health and the fats from fish are the best for the brain. In fact, essential fatty acids make up the majority of our brain and nerve cells and we don’t naturally produce these ourselves so eating fish is a great way to get them. Why is fish a great source of these essential fatty acids (EFAs)? It’s because they eat algae which is a natural source of fatty acids. So if you are not a fish fan, you can go straight to the source and eat a high quality AFA bluegreen algae wholefood supplement. This form of AFA bluegreen algae with the cell wall removed is particularly useful for enhancing brain activity and feeding the blood that feeds the brain. The form of AFA bluegreen algae that is the whole algae has a wide spectrum of nutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your body utilizes for physical well-being. Whichever way you get these fatty acids, omega-3 especially is vital to brain function and studies show that it helps prevent depression by affecting the neurotransmitter pathways in the brain.
Besides the components we’ve already mentioned, let’s take a look at some others and foods that contain them to add into your happy pill.
Folate or vitamin B9 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 Brussel sprouts, beans such as pinto and garbanzo, asparagus, peanuts, soybeans, liver, lentils and sunflower seeds. Beets are also high in this vitamin and have the added bonus of betaine that helps the brain make SAM-e which is a natural antidepressant. Vitamin B6 deficiencies have 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. Vitamin B12, which a significant number of Americans are deficient in, is another B vitamin that Edward Reynolds, MD, at the Institute of Epileptology, King’s College, London, says is important in preventing mood disorders, dementia and central nervous system disorders. Meat, fish, poultry and dairy products are all food sources for vitamin B12 with mussels being one of the best sources and they also contain zinc, iodine and selenium which are important trace minerals for stabilizing mood. And here’s some good news, dark chocolate is also a mood booster. Be sure to get the good chocolate that is organic and dark with a high percentage of cocoa and stay away from the sugar-filled milk chocolate bars. Our bodies should produce enough B vitamins naturally, but many people are not able to absorb these vitamins from foods. This is typically a problem in the digestive tract and taking a quality probiotic supplement can help with production and absorption of B vitamins. Replacing the probiotics or “friendly bacteria” in our intestines helps to produce the B vitamins in our bodies. Supplements like acidophilus and bifidus can give the body a boost to keep producing these vitamins.
PEA, which stands for phenylethylamine, is a naturally occurring substance in the 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. Cheddar cheese, AFA bluegreen algae and chocolate are all food sources for PEA.
The mineral selenium has been found in studies to be useful as a mood booster in that it helps combat oxidative stress in the brain which can be linked to depression. 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 and low-fat dairy than from supplements. The amount recommended for most adults is 55 micrograms daily.
Magnesium is an essential ingredient for muscle relaxation, overall body calm, boosts energy, and has a soothing influence on mood. Magnesium rich foods include green vegetables such as Swiss Chard, spinach, cereals and grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and bran, peas, beans, peanuts, lentils, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, cashews, almonds, halibut, and fruits such as bananas and figs. Don’t overdo the magnesium though since once your body has absorbed enough magnesium it will release the rest, usually in the form of diarrhea.
Now you know what needs to be included in your happy pill. You can make some changes or additions to your diet or you can supplement your diet with AFA bluegreen algae to fill in the nutritional gaps. In capsule form, powder form or tablets; that’s truly a happy pill.