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The Food – Mood Connection

by ADMIN on NOVEMBER 2, 2012

We are what we eat.

Or rather: Our health and mood are reflections of what we have eaten and what we have not eaten.

It’s scientific fact that we can be deficient in specific macro – (protein, carbs, fat) and micro (vitamins and minerals) -nutrients. And that these deficiencies can lead to symptoms associated with depression, behavioral issues, stress, and physical illnesses.

For example, what we eat can lower or raise serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine – neurotransmitters in our brain that control our ability to relax, resist food cravings, or have energy and alertness. What we put in our mouths can also affect how well our red blood cells carry oxygen to our body, and how well we convert food to energy; Poor management of either of these will make us feel tired, weak, confused, or moody.

But deficiencies aren’t just from not eating the right foods. When we’re in a stressful situation, our body uses specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in much higher amounts, leaving us in a depleted state. Without those essential nutrients our brain, muscles, and cells can’t function optimally. So neither can we.

Energy Eats:

Foods to spark your energy!

B1 {Thiamin} – This vitamin is key in helping us convert carbohydrates into energy for the body, brain, and nervous system. When we run low, we can feel fatigued and weak.

  • Foods high in B1 include: Sesame butter (tahini), Tuna fish, Pork Chops, Sunflower seeds, Pistachios, Pecans, Navy Beans, Black beans, Dried peas, Pinto beans, Lentils, Lima beans, sesame seeds.

Water! – Most Americans walk around with chronic mild dehydration – and even just a 2% dehydration can lead to fatigue, poor performance, head aches, and “foggy thinking”.

  • How much to drink: Divide your weight in half – that’s the number of ounces you should be drinking per day. {Example: 150 pounds/ 2 = 75 ounces fluid needs}. Don’t forget that tea, milk, and soups add to your fluids needs, as do fruit which are packed with water!

Magnesium – This mineral is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, helps keep bones strong, helps to regulate blood sugar, promotes good blood pressure, and helps convert food to energy. Now that’s a busy little mineral.

  • Foods high in Magnesium: Green leafy veggies, (crude) Wheat bran, Almonds, Cashews, Soybeans, (crude) Wheat germ, Bran flakes, Oatmeal, Peanuts/peanut butter, Potatoes, Pinto beans, Black-eyed peas, Brown rice. {Side note: refined grains are much lower in magnesium than whole grains.}

Calming Cuisine:

Foods to calm the nerves, help with anxiety, and help you feel more serene.

Tyrosine – This amino acid helps synthesize Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps with the brain with movement control, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure or pain. It also make us more focused, concentrated, and alert.

  • Foods high in Tyrosine: Spirulina, Egg whites, Cottage cheese, Salmon, Turkey, Shrimp, Mustard greens, Chicken.

Produce! – A study done by Harvard Medical School looked at over 13,000 women over 25 years and showed that those who ate relatively high amounts of fruits and vegetables had less age-related decline in memory. Cruciferous veggies and leafy greens had the biggest effect.

  • Cruciferous Veggies {Brassicacae}: Cauliflower, Cabbage, Cress, Bok choy, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Kale, Collard greens, Kohlrabi, Turnip, Rutabaga, Canola/Rapeseed, Maca, Radish, Daikon, Arugula, Wasabi.

  • All others! Choose all different colored fruits and veggies to give your body a whole array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Choline – This is a water-soluble vitamin that is typically grouped with the B-Complex vitamins. It’s used to make Acetylcholine in the brain, a chemical that allows us to learn, remember, regulate our mood, and control how well we move. {We also need glucose from carbs to produce Acetylcholine}.

  • Foods high in Choline: The yolk of eggs (it’s not a yolk!), Beef, Atlantic cod, Salmon, Whey (!), Turkey, Soy flour.

Diet Downers:

Foods that make us feel sluggish, tired, or anxious.

Refined/Processed Carbohydrates: When we eat foods high in refined carbs, our blood sugar spikes leaving us feel euphoric… but then it crashes leaving us feeling tired and moody.

  • Refined Carbs to Watch Out For: Big bagels, pastries, donuts, cookies, some crackers and chips, candy, sugary drinks (juice drinks, soda, sports drinks), sugary cereals (More about sugary cereals here), and refined grains such as white bread (sandwich and french bread), etc.

Portion Distortion: After a big meal, more energy and blood is needed to help us digest, leaving us feeling listless and less alert. Some people call this a Food Coma, also known as Postprandial Fatigue, or Postprandial Somnolence. Other factors are at play here as well – but the best way to fight a food coma are small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day.

  • Combination Meals! Have small meals and snacks including lean proteins for lasting energy (low fat/fat free yogurt, cottage cheese; poultry, fish, beans, tofu, seeds, nuts, eggs) as well as whole grains for quick energy (Fruits, veggies, and whole wheat breads and whole grains).

Put in what you want to get out.

There are, of course, many other nutrients and foods that affect our mood. These are just a great way to start feeling more well-balanced. With good foods you can tackle your day with more energy, alertness, and calm!


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