Everything we do is influenced by nerve cells in our brain called neurons. We have billions of these neurons which communicate with each other through neurotransmitters; these are brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals have a powerful effect on your mood.
The foods below are guaranteed to improve your mood: Protein, Healthy fats, vegetables and Fruit, herbs and spices.
1.Protein – The word protein actually means “of primary importance” in Greek. Your neurotransmitters can only be made using 22 amino acids that are found in protein.
The best forms of protein are:
Fish – Try to eat fish at least 3 times a week. Fish contains all 22 amino acids as well as omega 3 healthy fats (more on that later). Fish is easy and quick to cook and a can of sardines or salmon is easy to have on hand. There is a strong correlation with amount of fish consumed and depression rates. The higher the amount of fish, eaten the lower depression rates. Look at Japan with the lowest rate of depression at 2.5% and the highest rates of fish consumed. Try to eat sustainable, wild fish as farmed fish is full of antibiotics.
Eggs – Recently exonerated, eggs are a perfect food. They contain all the nutrients required to create a life from one cell. They are loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals. Especially the yolks that contain as much protein as the whites but also a whole lot more. Rather than increase cholesterol levels, eggs have been proven now to reduce bad cholesterol and increase only the good cholesterol. Cholesterol is actually crucial for brain function, more on that topic in another blog.
Red Meat – Red meat has an abundance of Aminos and also contains Iron and Zinc, both very important to health, vitality and mental wellness.
Poultry- I only buy organic chicken, either way, chicken is another easy source of protein and also contains all 22 amino acids.
Dairy Protein – I am not a big proponent of Dairy, I eat very little in my diet, mostly hard cheeses and parmesan. I do use Ghee and butter in cooking. If you can tolerate dairy enjoy it in moderation. The best source of dairy protein is cottage cheese; hard cheeses are protein rich too. If you find cow’s milk difficult to digest, try goat or sheep’s milk which are delicious and easier to tolerate.
Vegetable Protein – It is very hard to get enough protein eating a purely vegetarian diet. I consider Soy a bad mood food the way we eat it in the west. Vegetable sources do not contain all 22 amino acids; you have to carefully mix them to get all 22 in your diet. The best options for vegetarian protein are nuts and seeds. Flax Seeds, olives, cashews, macadamias, almonds and pecans are the most preferable. You can use a protein powder made from pea or rice protein.
2.Healthy Fats – Our bodies are made up of at least 20% – 28% fat, your brain is at least 60% fat, this fat needs constant replenishing. Happy and healthy cultures all over the world eat a lot of the good fats. Fat has until the last century always been associated with abundance, wealth and sanctity. Most important forms of fat we need are:
Omega 3 fats are linked to lower rates of depression. Generally in Australia we are low in Omega 3, increasing your Omega 3 intake immediately raises your dopamine levels by 40%. Dopamine is linked to alertness, clarity, excitement and being able to focus. Omega 3’s slow down other enzymes that destroy mood enhancing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. There are studies confirming the treatment of ADD, alcoholism and depression with Omega 3’s. The best forms of Omega 3 are Oily cold water fish such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and mackerel. Just a word of caution, Omega-3 can be stimulating; I prefer to eat the fish then taking supplements. People with Pyroluria should also not take Omega 3 Supplementation without speaking to a Nutritionist or Doctor.
Saturated fats keep you satisfied. While we were all cutting the fat out of our diets, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and depression rates have all skyrocketed. Studies have now proven that there is no association between saturated fats and the risk of death from heart attack. In fact High fat (good fats) diets have been shown in numerous studies to improve weight and insulin levels. Saturated fats keep your blood sugar levels steady, they keep you feeling full and they also help you absorb crucial fat soluble vitamins A,D and E. Calcium also needs fats to be absorbed, hence if you want to get the calcium out of spinach( which actually has a lot of calcium, as do all green veggies, think about it, how do cows make it?) you need to serve it with some butter or another saturated fat. Best form of Saturated fats are butter, ghee, coconut oil and coconut milk, animal fats such as Duck fat, tallow, lard etc. can also be used Sparingly.
Omega – 9 fats are also an important good mood fat. Olive oil is full of Omega 9s. Omega 9 fats support Omega 3’s and are a great mood enhancer. Nuts such as Cashews,macadamias, almonds and pistachios are all high in this fat. Look at the people of the mediterranean, they often live well into their 90’s and they eat plenty of olive oil, fish and vegetables.
3.Vegetables are probably the healthiest foods on the planet. They come in such a wide variety of colours, each colour representing a different nutrient. Vegetables are fantastic partners to your protein and fat. They are full of good carbohydrates, fibre and water. They are also full of anti-oxidants and cancer preventatives. You need to eat at least a cup full of vegetables with every meal. Yes, even white potatoes are O.K, potatoes are full of potassium and starch and your body with much needed carbohydrates, providing you are not eating them every day and they are not the only vegetable you’re eating. It’s important to have a wide variety of vegetables daily.
4.Fruit is a great source of fuel and vitamins. We need good quality carbs to fuel our bodies’ and brains. Eating 1-2 pieces of fruit a day will not cause your blood sugar to swing or your mood. Fruits contain fibre and a multitude of vitamins. Best fruits based on packing the most nutrient punch and the least amount of fructose is berries. Fresh or frozen, they are fantastic.
5. Herbs and spices can be very beneficial and often have medicinal value. Saffron has been known to help with mild to moderate depression and PMS, Turmeric is being hailed as a wonder spice. Currently being used as an anti-depressant but is being studied for up to 14 different uses. Chamomile and lavender are both calming and stress busting.
Bad mood foods next week…
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