This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Andreia Horta, ND and Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND, founders of Infusion Health! You can check out their website here!
Although some of us may not want to admit it, most people can relate to “feeling down” at least once. In fact, it is believed at least 50% of the population will have depression at one point in their lifetime. And even if you are not feeling low, who doesn’t want to maintain a happier state of mind? Healthy brain function is imperative for a balanced mood, and special nutrients found in certain foods can affect cognitive function.
Top 5 Foods For Better Moods
1. Fish high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 rich fish, such as sardines, anchovies, herring, trout and salmon play a super important role in brain health. Research has shown an association between omega 3 fatty acid levels in our blood and our moods; specifically, a decreased risk of depression when the omega 3 level is higher . In another large Norwegian study (consisting of 22,000 participants) individuals who regularly took fish oil were 30% less likely to develop depression, compared to those who did not . To top it off, omega 3 fatty acids may actually protect neurons during times of stress! No wonder our grandparents always called fish brain food.
*If you are allergic to fish, or simply don’t care for the taste, chia seeds are also high in omega 3 fatty acids.
2. Collard Greens
Deep and rich green in color, collard greens actually contain more calcium per serving than milk! Calcium, although beneficial for both sexes (we all know it builds strong bones) may actually play a role in reducing PMS-related depression in women! As an added benefit, collard greens belong to the family of veggies known as cruciferous vegetables. These veggies have shown to be beneficial in cancer prevention. Collard greens are a great addition to an omelet, taste delicious sautéed with lemon and garlic or can be easily added to soups.
These delightful nuts are high in magnesium, a nutrient that plays a major role in our feelings of happiness. Very low levels of magnesium in the body, resulting in magnesium deficiency, can cause irritability and fatigue.
In an interesting study conducted by the American Chemical Society, people who regularly ate mixed nuts that contained almonds had a higher level of serotonin (a brain chemical responsible for happy mood). Note that these nuts in the study were raw, unsalted and had their skin on. Many nuts available for purchase are salted and have added oils that may be unhealthy. Pay attention to labels and look for “raw unsalted” nuts and seeds.
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To all those chocolate lovers out there- we are happy to report that chocolate has actually been shown to boost mood and relieve tension! Chocolate not only contains caffeine but also has a number of other psychoactive chemicals that can affect our mood . These include anandamide’s, which stimulate the brain in a similar way that cannabis does, and tyramine and phenylethylamine, which has similar effects as amphetamines. Don’t worry- the amount of these chemicals is very small, but still exert enough stimulus to affect our mood in a positive way. Dark chocolate is best (look for 70% or higher), as it contains less sugar and is higher in antioxidants providing a variety of other health benefits.
Eggs are not only an excellent source of protein but also contain tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin in the brain (remember serotonin levels are related to mood elevation). Additionally, eggs are a source of vitamin B6, important in regulating brain function and vitamin D. New research has suggested that low levels of vitamin D may be involved in depression . It is important to note that many of these vitamins are contained in the yolk! And therefore, to gain the full nutrient benefit the whole egg needs to be eaten. Eggs are a quick and easy meal to prepare at morning, noon, or dinner time and hard boiled eggs can be prepared in advance and make a great snack at work.
Andrews G et al. Lifetime risk of depression: restricted to a minority or waiting for most? Br J Psychiatry. 2005 Dec;187:495-6.
Serum omega-3 fatty acids are associated with variation in mood, personality and behavior in hypercholesterolemic community volunteers. Conklin, S.M., Harris, J.I., Manuck, S.B., et all. Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Postdoctoral Training Program, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Psychiatry Research, 2007 Jul 30; 152(1):1-10
Am J Psychiatry 2006; 163:969–978)
Raeder MB, Steen VM, Vollset SE, Bjelland I. Associations between cod liver oil use and symptoms of depression: The Hordaland Health Study. J Affect Disord. 2006 Dec 18.
Nutr Rev. 2014 Feb;72(2):99-112. doi: 10.1111/nure.12088. Epub 2014 Jan 13.
Micronutrients and the premenstrual syndrome: the case for calcium. Thys-Jacobs S. Metabolic Bone Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Columbia University, New York, New York. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000 Apr; 19 (2):220-7
Ambrosone CB, Tang L. Cruciferous vegetable intake and cancer prevention: role of nutrigenetics. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). 2009 Apr;2(4):298-300. 2009.
Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Eby, G.A., Eby, K.L. George Eby Research Institute, Austin, Texas. Medical Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):649-60
American Chemical Society Press Pac 2011. Benefits of nut consumption for people with abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure
Macht, M. & Dettmer, D. 2006. Everyday mood and emotions after eating a chocolate bar or an apple. Appetite. 46(3): 332-336.
Ottley, C. 2000. Food and mood. Nursing Standard, 15(2): 46-52.
Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine? Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., et all. Loyola University Chicago, School of Nursing, Illinois. Issues in Mental Health Nursing. 2010 Jun; 31(6):385-93
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