A New Attitude With Mood Foods
Balance Your Mood with Depression-Fighting Food
Fast food is convenient and inexpensive, but is it worth the cost to your body, mind and spirit? Take advantage of the time and effort put forth by the researchers who’ve identified the best foods for the best moods. A little science in your kitchen tonight can make you feel better by morning!
How Depression Starts
A depressed mood can arise when your brain lacks serotonin, the neurotransmitter directly involved in sleep, depression, memory and relaxation. Along with serotonin, your body depends on hormones called endorphins to bring you feelings of pleasure and reduce pain. When serotonin and endorphin levels are too low, you might begin to feel anxious and crave foods high in fat and sugar. You don’t need a scientist to tell you that these cravings lead to overeating, weight gain and negative self-esteem.
You might ask yourself how food can help when the toilet is overflowing or your kids have earned failing grades. When the blues set in, it often seems there’s nothing you can do. But the one thing you can do, always, is pay attention to what you and your family are eating.
How do you start? First, heed the age-old advice and prepare at least three meals a day. Or, eat five mini-meals a day. At each meal, try to include at least one of the healthy foods from the list that follows. Each of the foods described have been proven to help increase production of serotonin and endorphins.
1) “Tryp” Out with Turkey
America’s favorite Thanksgiving fowl is one of the richest food sources of the amino acid tryptophan , which your body uses to make serotonin. Other foods with tryptophan include chicken, fish, bananas, pineapples, eggs, nuts, avocados, cheese, milk, beans, peas and soy.
2) Find the Fish Market
Coldwater fish such as mackerel, anchovies, herring and sturgeon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Several recent research studies have indicated that omega-3 acids are especially helpful in beating the blues as well as preventing heart disease.
3) Bring on the Beef
In all its forms, beef is one of the best sources of vitamin B-12, which your body uses in the production of serotonin. B-12 is also needed for the production of another good-mood brain chemical, dopamine .
4) Be Careful with Caffeine
It might jazz you up, but it also brings you down. A stimulant, caffeine cues your body to produce adrenaline. In turn, your blood sugar — and your mood — takes a roller coaster ride. Balance out your beverage intake with herbal tea and water instead of always opting for coffee and cola.
5) Get a Guava
Because vitamin C is crucial to the production of serotonin, foods that are high in the vitamin should be a staple in your diet. Besides guavas, indulge in citrus, strawberries and kiwi.
6) Zero in on Zinc
Some studies have linked mood disorders to zinc deficiency. Fill up on foods that are rich in this mindful mineral — such as pumpkin seeds, mangoes and eggs — to keep your zinc level where it should be.
7) Dally with Dairy
Ever hear that warm milk is a natural tranquilizer? That’s because it’s high in calcium, which helps to relax the cells in your nerves and muscles. Load your shopping cart with yogurt, cheese, and cream for healthy snacking and meal preparation. If you’re concerned about calories, buy the low-fat versions.
8) Nibble on Nuts
Nuts provide a plant-based variety of omega-3 fatty acids that is vital to serotonin production, so stock up on your favorites among cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts and macadamias. If you’re concerned about fat content, limit your portion to a child’s handful per day.
9) Choose Chocolate
Treat yourself to dark chocolate made from at least 70% cocoa solids and you’ve oh-so-pleasurably ingested of one of nature’s most effective anti-depressants. Not only does cocoa contain the serotonin-producing tryptophan, bromine and selenium, it also increases the brain’s levels of phenethylamine, known as the “love drug.” Finally, we know the reason why it tastes so good!
The Balancing Act
Achieving a balance of work, family, finances, and diet is integral to your day-to-day happiness. Commonly, a minor depression results when something goes wrong in one of these areas. For example, if you work too many hours and stay up late to make up for missed personal time, you initiate a cycle of sleep deprivation — one of the primary causes of poor physical and mental health.
Striking a personal balance of well-being requires thought and effort, but it’s not impossible. Try to subtract the negative aspects of your life and replace them with healthy improvements. But remember that no amount of self-treatment can replace the advice and resources of a psychiatric professional. If you regularly experience five or more of the following symptoms, make an appointment for help immediately:
- Feeling sad, depressed, or tearful
- Marked drop in interest or pleasure in activities
- Significant changes in weight or appetite
- Sleeping too much or too little nearly every day
- Feeling restless or sluggish
- Feeling worthless or excessively guilty
- Having trouble concentrating
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
Suicidal thinking, suicide attempts, or thinking about death (not just fear of death)
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association.
One Simple Question
It’s normal to feel out-of-sorts every so often, but it shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence. A recent study presented to the American Psychological Association indicates that individuals with episodes of minor depression are at an increased risk for major clinical depression.
The study’s researchers recognized a minor depression with the answer to a simple question: Have you have felt sad or depressed much of the time during the past year? If your answer is yes or even close to yes, then you want to formulate a strategy to beat the blues before they get worse.