Can Food Affect your Mood?

For the UAS Whalesong

Eating healthy foods can make a big difference in how you feel. Here are several tips on how to eat right and improve your chances of avoiding the effects of SAD, (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and related depression:

1) Fill your plate with essential antioxidants: Antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamins C and E combat the effects of damaging molecules called free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to tie up these free radicals and take away their destructive power. Foods rich in antioxidants include:
*Sources of beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato
*Sources of vitamin C: blueberries, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato
*Sources of vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ

2) Eat “Smart” Carbs for a calming effect: The connection between carbohydrates and mood is  linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. Opt for smart or “complex” carbs, such as whole grain crackers and bread, rather than simple carbs, such as cakes, cookies and white bread.

3) Eat Protein-rich foods to boost Alertness: Foods rich in protein, like turkey, tuna or chicken, are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine may help boost levels of brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This boost helps you feel alert, increases energy, and makes it easier to concentrate. Good sources of healthy protein: Beans and peas, lean beef, low fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products and yogurt.

4) Get plenty of Vitamin D: Lack of vitamin D has been linked to many health issues from increased cancer risk to mood disorders. A University of Toronto study noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, tended to improve as their levels of Vitamin D increased over the course of a year. Up to a 4,000 IU a day supplement is considered safe for most over 8 years of age. It may take more than this for a period of time to get your blood level normal if it is low. Vitamin D enhanced juices, (and of course milk), are also easy sources of Vitamin D.

5) Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids in your Diet: We know that omega-3 fatty acids have innumerable health benefits. Recently, scientists have revealed that a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
*fatty fish(anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad and tuna), flaxseeds, chia seeds, nuts, (including walnuts), canola oil, soybean oil and dark green leafy vegetables.

6) Fruits (for natural sweetness)-fresh fruit is bright, vibrant and packed with immune supportive, health promoting phytonutrients. Unlike natural sugars in fruit; processed refined sugars, (like candy and soda) can cause a big boost in energy, followed by a massive crash, which can  ultimately result in feeling blue. Rather than a traditional sugary treat in the afternoon, opt for a piece of fresh fruit instead.

7) Chocolate-So many of us LOVE chocolate! Besides great tasting and loads of health promoting antioxidants(in the dark, cacao rich varieties-not the processed milk chocolate stuff of course), chocolate is one of the best mood-boosting foods. Chocolate is metabolized by the body into serotonin, one of our most potent mood enhancing hormones. Just remember, if you are trying to lose weight, a little bit goes a long way!

*Excerpts taken from WebMD, and
Stacy Kennedy, MPH,RD,CSO,LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

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