The field of nutritional psychology reveals that what you eat greatly matters to your mental health. Learn the mood-boosting benefits of eating the right diet to enhance your yoga practice.
Eat your way to happiness
How Food Affects Mood
Like your other body parts, your brain is basically built out of the food you eat. David Ramsey, MD – Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, Co-Author of the Happiness Diet, mentions “Emotions begin in biology, with two nerve cells rubbing together, and those nerve cells are made of nutrients of food. Your body can’t make the mood-regulating neurotransmitter, serotonin without iron and tryptophan, or produce myelin – the fatty substance that insulates your brain cells without Vitamin B12 (found in seafood, beef, and dairy products.)
Diets high in refined sugars have shown reduced amounts of growth factors – neurotrophins in the brain. Neurotrophins are needed because they help with the growth of new brain cells in part of the brain, hippocampus. Hippocampus is a part of the brain that is key for memory. The hippocampus is smaller in people with depression. So, it is possible that eating a less sugary diet could impact depression.
Oxidative stress plays a key roll on brain cells. Your brain burns large amounts of glucose for energy which can lead to free radicals (exhaustion). Overtime, free radicals damage your cells – oxidative stress. If you build up enough damage, this can affect your emotions by the way it interferes with the way your brain cells function. Brain cells and the signals they send to one another are part of what creates emotion and mood. Therefore, if the cells become unhealthy and damaged, you will end up with depression or anxiety. Antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E, beta carotene, and flavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanidins (dark berries), have been shown to help prevent and repair oxidative stress.
Bacteria in the gut plays a role in keeping the brain healthy. Studies have linked gut bacteria and mental health (the mind/gut connection.) One way bacteria helps the brain is by keeping the gut lining healthy. The gut lining acts as a barrier to toxins and aids digestion so your brain is protected and gets the nutrients it needs. Another way gut bacteria helps the brain is by synthesizing neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
The Good Mood Foods
Here are 5 ways to improve your mood with food.
- Get back to basics. Eat a diet that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods. You can do this by eating lots of colorful fruit and vegetables (i.e. eat the colors of the rainbow), eat lean protein or eat plant-based protein (beans, whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and brown rice pasta), eat very little processed foods, and fatty foods. Good, healthy fats are salmon, sardines, avocados, and ghee. Eat dark, leafy greens which are high in antioxidants as well as dark berries.
- Eat more fermented foods. Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso (Japanese fermented soy paste), and kombucha. These foods contain healthy probiotics. Some yogurts are good. Suggestion: Read labels. Some yogurts may contain more sugar than others. Also, look for yogurts that contain more “live active cultures.” Also, taking a probiotic supplement is a good idea.
- Avoid junk food. Take the time to cook meals at home. Stay away from fried foods, artificial sweeteners, and refined sugar.
- Eat more seafood. Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids specifically DHA found in salmon, tuna, and halibut.
- Focus on foods with Vitamin B and D. Eat foods with Vitamin B9. Low levels of vitamin B9 have been linked to depression. Vitamin D can be found in salmon, tuna, liver, milk, and eggs.
So, by adding these 5 ways into your daily routine, may you find happiness…and a happy gut!!