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    Thursday, September 17, 2015

    Top 10 Foods for a Better Mood


      When was the last time your therapist or doctor asked about what you're eating? Food is important not just for our physical health but also for our mind and can be an excellent source of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. Growing research supports that what we eat everyday can improve our mood and help with treating depression and anxiety. Nutritional psychiatry (link is external) (or “food psychiatry”) is a new but growing field that is becoming mainstream.

    Our Westernized (link is external) so-called “cafeteria” diet unfortunately is calorie-loaded, nutrient-poor, and highly processed, leaving us with extra calories without real nutrition. Animal studies (link is external) have found that this food leads to higher anxiety and depression. It also doesn’t help that foods that are high in sugar, fat, and sodium are very addictive and especially comforting. In fact, evolution has probably set us up this way. Researchers have even found that high-fat, high-sugar foods or “comfort (link is external) foods”  temporarily make you happier but then create a cycle of self-medication with foods that not only lack nutrients but can over time make depression and anxiety worse.

    In contrast, a Mediterranean diet high in fish, olive oil, nuts, and whole grains has been linked to lower rates of depression. One study (link is external) found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet for 4 years reduced their risk of depression by 40-60%. Another study (link is external) found that using a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and berries called the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)— a hybrid of a Mediterranean diet and a diet for people with high blood pressure— was linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Here are the top 10 “brain-healthy” foods to help you promote a positive mood.

    1. Leafy greens and broccoli. Leafy greens like kale and bok choy contain folate, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K. Folate has been used as a supplement to improve depression. Leafy greens also contain compounds that help the liver process toxins better.

    If you rather drink your leafy greens, try my partner Doug's (link is external) Green Power smoothie recipe. For 2 servings, blend together until smooth and uniform:
    2 cups of Tuscan kale, 1 cup baby spinach, 2 small frozen bananas, 0.5 cup blueberries, 2 cups of soy/almond/hemp milk, 0.5 teaspoon honey, 1.5 tablespoons chunky almond butter.
    Creative Commons
    Source: Creative Commons

    2. Mussels, Oysters. Oysters and shellfish have high content of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is important for neurotransmitters in the brain and nerves-- a deficiency can lead to depression and anxiety. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may be low in vitamin B12 because vitamin B12 is found primarily in meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s important to find alternative sources of vitamin B12.
    Pixabay
    Source: Pixabay

    3. Fish and Fish Oil. Studies (link is external) have found that high fish consumption reduces depression. This may in part be due to the fact that fish is often a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, an effective supplement to treatment for depression (link is external). If you're using omega-3 fatty acid supplements, most studies (link is external) use 1-3 grams daily for mood and there should be more eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than docosahexanoic acid (DHA) on the label.

    In order to avoid mercury exposure found in fish, pregnant women should be careful regarding how much and types of fish they eat. The FDA recommends that pregnant women avoid: 1) tilefish, 2) shark, 3) swordfish, and 4) king mackerel. Pregnant (link is external) women can, however, eat up to 12 ounces of other types of fish per week.
    Creative Common
    Source: Creative Common

    4. Walnuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts. Nuts are a good source of Vitamin E. You can have them raw or unsalted. One study found that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams of mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts) daily significantly reduced depression (link is external).
    Creative Commons
    Source: Creative Commons

    5. Blueberries and other berries. Berries, especially blueberries, have been found to protect the brain. In one study, eating two servings of blueberries a week was linked to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer's disease (link is external) by 35%.
    Common Source
    Source: Common Source

    6. Lentils, chickpeas, beans. Legumes like lentils and chickpeas contain high levels of folate and zinc, both of which have been used as effective supplements for depression (link is external).

    Getting enough zinc is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans since the absorption of zinc can be reduced by 50% from phytates, which are found in plants. Beans are a good source of protein and keep your blood sugar levels stable. Beans like black eyed peas also contain high levels of folate.
    Pixabay
    Source: Pixabay

    7. Dark Chocolate, raw cacao nibs or powder. Dark chocolate and cacao (unroasted cacao beans) powder or nibs contains cocoa polyphenols, (link is external) a type of antioxidant found in plants, has been found to improve calmness and contentedness in a study (link is external) where people received dark chocolate drink mix. Raw cacao powder and nibs do not contain added sugar and can be used in smoothies. Cacao and cocoa powder can contain toxic (link is external) heavy metals, depending on the brand, so check out independent lab testing such as Consumer Labs (link is external) first (it won't be listed on the label).

    My personal favorite dessert substitute is this raw cacao smoothie, made by blending: one frozen banana, 2 tablespoons of raw cacao, 3 cups of water (or almond milk, soymilk, or hemp milk), 1 teaspoon of Dulse (link is external) flakes, 6-8 dried dates (optional). You can also add in a half cup of blueberries or kale or spinach.
    Common Source
    Source: Common Source

    8. Pumpkin seeds. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains almost half the daily recommended dose for magnesium, an essential mineral (link is external) to protect you from depression and anxiety. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and tryptophan, which help promotes sleep.
    Common Source
    Source: Common Source

    9. Fermented Foods and Probiotics. Researchers (link is external) are shedding light on the important link between the bacteria in the gut (your so-called “second brain”) and your mood. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut contain probiotics and can reduce social anxiety (link is external). Fermented foods and probiotics can also help with depression and anxiety. Mice who were on probiotics (link is external) behaved like they had taken Prozac. Probiotic powder supplements have also been shown to reduce (link is external) negative thoughts during sad moods.
    Pixabay
    Source: Pixabay

    10. Turmeric. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that has been found to help make antidepressants more effective to reduce depression (link is external). You can drink it in a tea or add it to your everyday dishes like chili or pasta sauce.


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     This topic brought to you from psychologytoday.com
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