Carbohydrates - A key chemical in food tied to your mood is serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin influence your concentration, as it is relaxing and calming and helps keep you from being depressed. Carbohydrates help to raise the levels of serotonin in the body. A decrease in serotonin levels may increase the appetite and cause carbohydrate cravings. Stress buster foods, which are high in carbohydrates, are whole grains, fruit, high fiber cereals, rice and potatoes.
Fat - Eating too little fat can make you feel grouchy. Foods high in fat increase endorphins and make you happy. Endorphins are opiate-like chemicals that are the “feel good” neurotransmitters. To help keep your moods on an even keel, choose healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, almonds and avocados.
Additionally, the Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood (especially salmon, lobster and shrimp), walnuts and olive oil may also help to reduce depression.
Protein - Protein increases alertness and helps give you more energy. Protein has an amino acid called tyrosine, which increases dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine levels. Norepinephrine and dopamine are responsible for alertness and excitement. Low levels of norepinephrine and dopamine may make one feel anxious.
The calming effect from carbohydrates and the energizing effect from protein provide a good balance. To pep yourself up, try eating eggs, low fat cheese, milk, tofu, lean meats, fish, legumes, turkey, and/or lean beef. High protein foods such as milk and chicken, along with bananas and green leafy vegetables also trigger the release of endorphins that increase the release of dopamine.
Vitamins and Minerals - Some vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and selenium are involved in mood related disorders. A lack of folic acid in the diet may be linked to depression. Oranges, turkey, asparagus, beets, soybeans and green leafy vegetables like spinach are good sources of folic acid. Too little selenium in the diet can make you grouchy, anxious and depressed. Good sources of selenium include whole grains, tomatoes, eggs, broccoli, tuna, and sunflower seeds.
Caffeine - When it comes to caffeine, less is more; it is best to have caffeine in moderation. A small amount may keep you alert and lift your mood, but it may be a downer during withdrawal. Too much may make you anxious or give you insomnia and headaches.
Changing your diet may enhance your mental health by improving mood swings, anxiety and depression. By controlling what you eat, you also control the messages passed on to your cells by the neurotransmitters, which control your body's functions such as your moods. So, if you are looking to take charge of your mental health via a positive change in your moods, try some mood elevating food tricks - you may end up being a happier person!
Can chocolate put you in the mood?
Chocolate may help to get rid of depressed feelings because it is a psychoactive food containing more than 300 compounds that can affect moods. Throughout history, chocolate has been used for many health-inducing purposes. The Aztecs made a frothy, chocolate beverage that was believed to be a stimulant and impart vitality and wisdom. Chocolate has even been used as an aphrodisiac. Casanova reportedly ate chocolate before each of his sexual escapades, and a study done in the mid-1990s by Debra Waterhouse, RD, found more than 50% of the women surveyed preferred chocolate to sex.*
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