- Mental Health
Improve Your Mood with Good Nutrition
According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, "A deficiency of any single nutrient can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders."
Nutrition Effects Your Mood
In order to understand how food can put us in a Good Mood we have to understand the basics of how our bodies produce brain chemicals from a combination of nutrients we consume. Deficiency of some Amino Acids, Endorphins and certain Vitamins and Minerals can alter brain function and lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Nutritional deficiencies can have a profound influence on the brain and mood.
As they say "no man is an island". This holds true for Amino Acids, Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants. All nutrients require other nutrients for activation or function.
Amino Acids serve as building blocks of proteins. They are necessary to nearly every bodily function.
There are twenty Amino Acids. Some of them are stored in the body and others can only be obtained by the food we consume. Some of the Amino Acids are derived from others. They all play an important role in optimum health.
There are nine Essential Amino Acids. They are not really more important than the other Amino Acids. They are Essential because they can only be created with certain nutrients in the food we ingest. Because the body does not store excess Amino Acids for later use they must be consumed on a daily basis.
There are three Essential Amino Acids that directly effect our mood.
Sources of Tryptophan
- Brown Rice
- Cottage Cheese
- Fish (Tuna, Crab and Shellfish)
- Tryptophan is an Essential Amino Acid that is a precursor of Serotonin.
- Most of our 40 million brain cells are influenced by Serotonin
- Serotonin is a chemical that helps relay signals from one part of the brain to another
- Serotonin effects mood, appetite, memory, learning, appetite, sexual function and desire
- 5-HTP is the intermediate step between Tryptophan and Serotonin. 5-HTP causes an increase in levels of endorphin and other neurotransmitters that are often decreased in cases of depression.
Sources of Phenyalinine
- Cheese, Cottage Cheese
- Lima Beans
- Pickled Herring
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
Phenylalanine is an Essential Amino Acid that is needed to make, among other things, brain chemicals such as Norepinephrine and Dopamine. The body turns Phenylalanine into another Amino Acid called Tyrosine. Tyrosine is often referred to as the "anti-depressant " Amino Acid. It acts to help the body adapt to and cope with psychological and physical stress as it is the precursor to two of the stress related hormones Norepinephrine and Epinephrine.
- Norepinephrine effects mood
- Dopamine is a brain chemical that helps to control the reward and pleasure center, motivation and emotions
- A low level of Phenylanine coupled with decreased levels of Tyrosine can cause depression, a lack of sleep and energy, chronic fatigue syndrome, decreased alertness and memory problems, low sex drive and stress.
Sources of Methionine
Methionine is an Essential Amino Acid that plays several important roles in metabolism.
- SAMe, which is essential for normal brain function, is a biproduct of the Amino Acid Methionine.
- SAMe plays a role in the chemical reaction involving the neurotransmitters Serotonin, Melatonin and Dopamine
- Methionine also acts as a powerful antioxidant to combat free radicals in the body.
- Methionine may be useful in the management of depression, arthritis pain, memory problems,
Release Your Endorphins!
Chocolate: The release of endorphins when consuming chocolate can explain the comforting feelings that result when one indulges their craving for this luscious treat. In addition to releasing Endorphins, Chocolate contains flavonoids that have anitoxidant properties.
Chili Peppers, can also lead to enhanced secretion of endorphins. The spicier the pepper, the more endorphins are secreted. Have spicy ethnic foods like Tex-Mex, Mexican, Cajun, Indian, Szechuan and Thai. An additional benefit of Chili Peppers is that they contain Vitamins A and C and Calcium.
Endorphins are protein molecules. These "uplifting" chemicals are naturally produced by the body. The level of Endorphins can be increased by consuming a combination of the nutrients that cause their release.
- Endorphins are produced in the brain and other parts of the body
- They work with sedative receptors to help control pain, stress, symptoms of eating disorders and cravings for addictive substances
- They enhance the immune system and postpone the aging process.
- They create Euphoria especially noted with displays of affection and while Making Love
- The "Natural High" is achieved through prolonged exercise and periods of extreme stress when levels of Endorphins are increased.
- Low Endorphin levels can be caused by certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- B Complex Vitamins (Thiamine,Niacin, Pantothemic Acid, Pyridoxine, Folate/Folic Acid) are essential to mental and emotional well being. They aid in the processing of Amino Acids which are needed to manufacture serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Folic Acid is necessary for the production of SAMe. Pyridoxine (B6) is needed for the conversion of Tryptophan to Serotonin. Deficiencies are linked to depression and anxiety. Sources: Green ,Leafy Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains, Cereals, Fish, Liver, Nuts, Eggs, Meat, Poultry, Milk, Beans.
- Vitamins C assists the body in the production of Serotonin. It has antioxidant properties that help to support a healthy immune system by destroying free radicals and decreasing the risk of depression and associated mood swings. Sources: Citrus fruit, Strawberries, Peppers, Broccoli
- Vitamin D deficiency results in increased anxiety and altered emotional behavior and is associated with depression and poor mood. Sources: Salmon, Tuna, Fortified Dairy Products and Cereals
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxident. Sources: Vegetable Oils, Margarine, Butter, Wheat Germ, Avocados, Green, Leafy Vegetables,
Through modern farming practices our soil is not as rich in Minerals and Vitamins as it used to be. Biodynamic or Organic Farming produces healthier fruits and vegetables. We get most of our Minerals and Vitamins from Plant and Animal Sources. Because they are so important to our well being, it makes sense to shop "Organic". Check out "Local Harvest" to see where you can find and support local farmers and other resources for Organic Foods in your area.
There are many Minerals that help to relieve anxiety and prevent deficiencies that directly cause stress and depression. Some of these are:
- Calcium is required for proper metabolism of neurotransmitters responsible for mood and energy. Sources: Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, Chinese Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli, Tofu, Fortified Cereals and Juices
- Chromium helps prevent mood swings and depression by regulating blood glucose. Sources: Apples, Beef, Calf Liver, Brewer's Yeast, Cheese, Chicken, Corn, Eggs, Molasses, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Whole Grain Products
- Iron is essential in the synthesis of Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin. A deficiency can lead to depression, exhaustion and weakness. Sources: Beef, Tuna, Nuts, Fortified Cereals.
- Magnesium is essential for the transmission of nerve impulses and plays a role in depression and ADD. Sources: Seeds, Nuts, Dairy Products, Apples
- Manganese is needed for proper use of B Complex Vitamins and Vitamin C. It also plays a role in Amino Acid formation. Deficiency results in low levels of Serotonin and Epinephrine leading to depression and anxiety. Sources: Blue/Blackberries, Dried Beans, Bran, Carrots, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Oatmeal, Peas, Peanuts, Pecans, Spinach, Seaweed, Tea, Whole Grain Product
- Selenium helps prevent anxiety, confusion and depression. Sources: Bran, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chicken, Milk, Mushrooms, Oatmeal, Onions, Seafood, Tuna, Whole Grain Products
- Zinc cannot function without Vitamin E and Vitamin E needs Selenium. Zinc is important for proper functioning of the nervous system and maintaining mental balance. It helps prevent depression, anxiety and lethargy. Sources: Oysters, Wheat Germ, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Dark Chocolate, Peanuts, Beef
Antioxidant Rich Indulgences
Your body constantly reacts with oxygen as you breathe and your cells produce energy. When oxygen is metabolized it creates Free Radicals which pull electrons from other molecules. Physiological or Oxidative Stress leads to the accumulation of these free radicals which cause cell damage and are responsible for many disease processes. This oxidation process is accelerated by mental stress and exposure to various toxins.
Antioxidants help to neutralize Free Radicals. Our body doesn't produce enough Antioxidants so look to the sources of Vitamins C and E and Minerals Selenium, Zinc and Manganese which are nutritients that have antioxidant properties.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are powerful antioxidants that help to alleviate stress and depression. Sources: oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines, as well as flax seeds and walnuts
Supplement your diet with colorful fruits and vegetables. The more vibrant the color the more antioxidants they have!!