Brain Food – Eat this to get Happy! 

Last week I chatted about 3 steps you can take for better mental health {find article here} and today I want to expound on the topic of healthy eating. It’s so true that whatever you put in your body not only affects the way you physically feel but also how and what emotions you feel. This is even more important when we talk about what our little sprouts’ eat as there’s significant evidence that a good-quality diet yields better mental health in children and teens.  The vitamins and minerals in our food interact with our brain’s neurotransmitters (the fancy word for our brain’s chemicals) by increasing or decreasing their levels. This in turn can cause a surge in “happy” chemicals, or a decrease in the same, making us feel blue. Following are some foods that may be help to fight symptoms of depression, as well as other disorders, and may give your mood just the boost it needs.

Researchers have noted low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in people with depression, and have also identified that diets rich in seafood may lead to a lower prevalence of mood disorders – including depression, post-partum depression, and bipolar disorder. If you’re making the connection that you can find Omega 3-s in fish (try delicious salmon, tuna or oysters), then you’d be right, but I know many people don’t like seafood so here are other places to find these helpful fatty acids: chia seeds, walnuts, and spinach, ground flax seed ,and oils (olive, canola).

Another important amino acid in helping to create those “happy” hormones (more specifically serotonin) is Tryptophan. Just this April, researchers found a small but significant positive effect that this amino acid has on depression. Find tryptophan in spinach (Popeye really had it right!), mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, pork, beef and lamb, white and kidney beans, chicken and turkey breasts, tuna, shrimp, scallops, and eggs.

B- Vitamins
Because these vitamins help to convert tryptophan into serotonin, they are also powerful in helping to regulate and boost our moods – but get this, an increase in B-vitamins has also been found to protect against adolescent behavioral problems (think aggression and delinquency). To make sure you’re getting the B-Vitamins your body needs, try adding more of these to your diet: dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains {more on grains here}, mushrooms, almonds, oranges, grapefruit, carrots, sunflower seeds, beans, milk, fish, poultry – you’ve got plenty of options here!

Vitamin D
Depression during the times of the year in which the sun is less visible, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder, gives us an indication of the role that vitamin D (made in our skin when exposed to sunlight) plays in our emotions (among other vital functions it has in our bodies). In late 2015, researchers found that vitamin D supplementation helped those with major depressive disorder decrease their depressive symptoms. So a healthy amount of this vitamin may just help us feel better when blue. Here are your sources for Vitamin D- salmon, tuna, mushrooms, egg yolk, fortified milk and juice, fortified cereals, and some good old fashioned sunlight!

Zinc plays a huge role in a lot of cellular processes in our bodies, so it’s no surprise that it also affects the circuitry in our brains that regulates moods. In fact, a 2014 study found that individuals in their study with the highest amount zinc in their diets had significantly lower odds of developing depression. But just where do you find this all-important mineral? Try getting your zinc from oysters, beef and lamb, lobster, spinach, fortified cereals, oatmeal, cashews, pecans, chicken, chickpeas, mushrooms, and even a bit of chocolate! You don’t need to tell me twice….

As you can probably tell, the vitamins and minerals that help our bodies and minds to stay healthy can be found in many foods that are widely available- and they have so many more benefits outside of increasing our mental wellbeing. If you and your kiddo’s are eating a varied and balanced diet, chances are you’re getting what you need, but if you feel like you could use the mood-boosting power of one of these super foods try adding these to your diet in different ways. Before making any drastic changes however, ESPECIALLY if you choose to increase these vitamins and minerals in pill form, check with your doctor to get the go -ahead 👍. Now go get yourself some salmon and spinach!

*The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.  This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.  Please consult your healthcare provider before making any diet or treatment decisions.

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