Diet and mood: while these seem odd bedfellows, a closer inspection reveals their intrinsic links.
What, and when, you eat can make you feel either sluggish or energized. The prospect of eating foods you love can make you excited or happy; faced with foods you hate, you might feel the very opposite.
An obvious, if indirect, link has to do with general health. Healthy people may not share universal happiness; but the healthier you eat, the healthier you are, and the healthier you are, the fewer reasons, at least, you have to be unhappy.
The link is more obvious, still, if you consider the vast numbers of us who eat because we are bored, or, worse yet, to fill an emotional void. But the kinds of junk and comfort foods we tend to grab when we’re down are not likely to have any real impact on our moods. However, others foods just might…
No specific diet has been proven to cure, or even treat, sadness or depression, but many studies have shown a link between certain foods and mood. Certain nutrients are, it seems, directly related to our mental well-being. Here are four of these nutrients, and the foods in which they can be found.
1. Vitamin B12
According to Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, of the Mayo Clinic, vitamin B12 “plays a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions.” Low levels of vitamin B12 are inimical to methylation, a process by which the brain manages detox, and builds and metabolizes neurotransmitters. The inhibition of methylation can result in decreased energy, and perhaps, a change in mood.
Good Sources of Vitamin B12: fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and milk, some breakfast cereals (check the label), and supplements. (Careful: in abundance, vitamin B12 can interact negatively with certain medications. Best to check with a doctor before embarking on any supplemental routine.)
Many foods high in protein contain tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid linked with charging your brain with dopamine and norepinephrine. These can improve concentration, alertness, and in turn, mood.
Good Sources of Protein and Tyrosine: turkey, tuna, or chicken, soy products and many legumes.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Many studies have revealed that omega-3 fatty acids alleviate the symptoms of depression. A recent Norwegian study, for instance, concluded that those who received sufficient levels of omega-3 fatty acids lowered significantly their risk of depression. The study, which engaged 22,000 participants, found those who took supplemental cod liver oil to be 30% less likely to suffer from depression than those who did not.
Good Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: many fish (anchovy, salmon, sardines, and tuna), flaxseed, soybean and canola oils, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, and supplements.
4. Vitamin D
There is a known link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. However, studies have not concluded whether the deficiency causes depression, or the other way around.
Good Sources of Vitamin D: supplements, fatty fish, sunlight, eggs, fortified milk, cereals, and orange juice