Nutrients in foods are precursors to neurotransmitters and the more precursors present in the food you eat, the more or less of a certain neurotransmitter is produced. However, because foods are composed of more than one nutrient, it's how these various nutrients interact that also has an affect on your emotional condition.
Eating the right kinds of foods not only helps you lose weight, but also improves your moods. Besides putting a smile on your face because the scale goes down, there are also biological reasons why the right foods make you feel better, both physically and emotionally.
Here are some superior foods that help to fight or prevent depression, while improving your mood :
What to Eat When Stressed, Tired, or Depressed
Foods when Stressed
How many commercials have you seen where someone who’s stressed out suddenly becomes calm after one bite of a piece of chocolate? When stressed, you've probably been told that carbohydrates help. However, be sure it's not a bad carbohydrate such as a candy bar or bowl of ice cream. Select “super” carbs instead of the “dead” carbs. “Super” carbs include vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, which trigger the release of insulin, which clears amino acids out of the brain, except for tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin when it enters the brain. Known for reducing pain, as well as lessening anxiety, serotonin also decreases appetite (unlike bad carbs.) However, don’t forget that too much serotonin can also make you sleepy.
Foods when Fatigued
You've also probably heard it's good to load up on carbs if you need a burst of energy, such as running in a race. Actually, you need to choose more protein when tired. Foods high in protein include fish, poultry, meat, and eggs. Other foods, which are good sources of protein, are legumes, cheese, and milk. As protein foods are broken down during digestion, they become amino acid building blocks, including tyrosine, which increases the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which, in turn, increases energy and mental alertness. On the other hand, be sure to avoid simple carbohydrates such as foods made with white flour (breads, pasta, and rice), as well as carbs high in sugar, which leads to fatigue.
Foods when Depressed
Studies have shown that depressed people have fewer essential fatty acids (EFAs) in their brain than people not depressed. Therefore, you need more foods rich in Omega-3 EFAs when battling the blues. Select foods such as fatty fish (wild salmon, herring, mackerel). Flaxseed is also a good choice. Carbohydrates found in foods such as turkey, sprouted grain bread, organic brown rice, as well as fruits and vegetables as tomatoes, and bananas actually raise serotonin levels.
Foods to avoid when depressed include refined and simple sugars (including honey, fructose, and maple syrup) which rob your body of B vitamins, while increasing hypoglycemia (which is tied to depression and mood swings.) Also avoid foods rich in saturated fats (causing poor circulation to the brain), as well as processed foods with additives and preservatives, which also slow down the production of neurotransmitters.
In conclusion, remember that when stressed, depressed, or just plain tired, too often we reach for food. However, emotional eating only causes more stress. If you're full and really don't need more than you've already eaten, then pull away from the table and lock up your refrigerator and cupboards. Instead of turning to food, choose other options such as calling a friend, journaling your feelings, a hobby, or exercising. Besides letting off steam, exercise will jump-start your endorphins and is much better for you than either emotional eating or eating the wrong foods.
Try to reduce or avoid the following foods to help in your fight against depression.
Alcohol and caffeine. Though alcohol is a stimulant in low doses, it also depletes the brain's mood elevator, serotonin. Caffeine blocks the soothing effects of the brain's "feel-good" messenger called GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) that can calm mood and the digestive tract. Refined foods and caffeine tend to raise the blood glucose. The drop in blood sugar is a route into depression.
Drugs -- such as antibiotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, pain killers, ulcer drugs, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, anti-Parkinson's drugs, birth control pills, high blood pressure drugs, heart medications and psychotropic drugs -- contribute to depression. If you are taking any of these, don't quit them without talking to your doctor; but be aware that they may be contributing to your condition by depleting your body of depression-fighting vitamins and minerals.
Fast foods and Gas station food. are processed foods that contain refined flour and give you high doses of sugar but lack critical nutrients. You'll often experience a feeling of well-being from the sugar when levels are high, but when it's low you experience a letdown or fatigue. Refined sugars include white sugar, white flour, HFCS.
Fried foods. Fat is a very important part of a cell's membranes. But trans fats and saturated fats make the membranes rigid; then the neurotransmitters don't work as well.
Gluten. in foods such as bread can cause a depressed mood.
Refined flour, sugary foods and cereals, especially in the morning, cause your blood sugar to spike dramatically. Instead of a carb-rich breakfast of cereal, fruit and toast, opt for a protein-rich breakfast, with eggs, spinach, and wild salmon. This type of breakfast helps prevent food cravings and mood swings later on in the day
Note: If necessary, eat delicious sweet strawberries, blueberries, or sliced oranges as part of a snack or for dessert (with some walnuts). These fruits can ease your sweet tooth and help keep you on track.
Note: Hormone therapy and oral contraceptives can interfere with the absorption of B vitamins. Women that take an estrogen supplement may want to add a B supplement to their diet in order to combat this interference.
Note: Food allergies can also cause a host of problems, including depression, fatigue and weakness. Sometimes, these allergies are mild, and simply cause stomach upset or mood swings. Common food allergies include chocolate, wheat, dairy, and soy.
Try one or more of the following nutritional supplements to help in your fight against depression.
Review the following nutrients (listed in alphabetical order) to identify the nutrients that can support the health state of your Mind and Spirit, and fight depression. Ideally, try to find a wholefood or supplement that contains the nutrients that you are not obtaining from your food.
Important Note: Ensure the supplements are certified as pure and free of toxins, pesticides, and other chemicals; and, do not conflict with your drug therapy.
Chamomile is an herb rich in magnesium and chamomile tea can be effective as a bedtime relaxant. Note: Celestial Seasonings “Sleepytime” herbal tea is a caffeine-free natural blend of Chamomile, spearmint, West Indian lemongrass, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn and rosebuds. This tea also promotes a good night’s sleep.
Cod liver oil and cold-water fish contain Vitamin D, which is essential for improving your mood.
Kava is a caffeine-free medicinal and beverage plant, whose primary benefit is alleviating anxiety. It has been used and cultivated for its ability to calm the body and mind, and encourage a good night’s sleep.
Magnesium supplements can be helpful but be aware that most drugs, soda, and processed foods will reduce how much magnesium is absorbed. Note: Ionic Fizz Magnesium (Calcium Plus) is a fizz drink powder that provides ionic magnesium and calcium in the ratio that is best for relaxation and healthy bones.
Melatonin supports the body’s natural sleep rhythm by helping it to relax and prepare for sleep, which is often difficult when dieting and exercising. It also helps you feel more alert and rested after a night’s sleep. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, located in the center of the brain. It is a hormone that plays a vital role in aging, energy and sleep.
Natural Calm Plus Calcium is a powder drink that provides magnesium, which is a mineral needed to help our muscles relax and help us sleep.
Omega-3 EFAs from wild salmon and sardines provide EPA and DHA fat. EPA fat has been shown to improve mood disorders. DHA fat constitutes 60% of the brain fat.
Probiotics from beneficial germs (like acidophilus) can help your digestive tract and, in turn, improve your mood.
Selenium-rich foods include seafood, poultry, mushrooms, sea vegetables can help to banish bad moods. People who don't eat enough selenium-rich foods tend to be grumpier than people with a high dietary intake, according to recent research.
St. John’s Wort is an herb that, according to the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, may be effective against "mild" depression, at least in the short term. However, this herb can interact with other drugs.
Tulsi Tea is a certified organic blend of Tulsi tea, black tea, and Chai spices but I does contain caffeine. Tulsi tea is recognized as one of India’s most sacred herbs because of its health benefits and healing properties, and is also abundant in antioxidants. It relieves stress and energizes you.
Vitamin B-Complex is found in foods such as a sweet potato or a spinach salad might help you beat the blues. Both are rich in folate and Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine. Deficiencies in these two B vitamins, experts believe, can actually bring on the symptoms of depression. Vitamin B6 works by keeping your brain's neurotransmitters in balance. These chemicals control whether you feel depressed, anxious, or on a steady keel.
You can find folate in most fruits and vegetables, especially spinach, asparagus, and avocados.
Eat chicken, liver, and other meats to feed your brain Vitamin B6. Plant sources of the vitamin include navy beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, and bananas.
Depression can also signal a deficiency in thiamin, also known as Vitamin B1. Stick with sprouted grain breads, lean organic meats, black beans, and watermelon to increase your thiamin levels. These foods might help you feel more clearheaded and energetic.
Valerian Root, Passionflower, Chamomile, Hops help you wind down to experience a good night’s sleep by decreasing sleep latency (the length of time it takes to get to sleep) and the number of nighttime awakenings; and, without interfering with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Also, these botanical extracts improve well being by decreasing nervousness and anxiety; and, do not cause side effects that are common with sedative drugs, including addiction and morning “hangovers”.
Caution about Supplements: Be aware that if you are taking other agents that increase serotonin levels (such as l-tryptophan or drugs like Prozac), you should consult your physician before adding a supplement to your regimen.