Discover some of the key foods that have been proven to increase the feeling of well-being in our minds and bodies.
Boost your mood and achieve optimum health with Eat Yourself Happy (Hamlyn, 2014) by Gill Paul. There are dozens of types of depression, all with different causes, but nearly all can be improved by eating the right foods. We all feel low from time to time, so allow Paul to help you address your individual symptoms and gain quick results with easy recipes and lifestyle tips. The following excerpt covers the basics of how to eat yourself happy.
Some key amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, must be included in our diets because we can't manufacture them ourselves. For example, the amino acid tryptophan is required to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls mood, sleep patterns, and appetite. Likewise phenylalanine is essential for the production of noradrenaline and adrenaline, which affect energy levels, and dopamine, which regulates the emotions. Eating a wide range of good-quality proteins, and including protein in at least two meals or snacks a day, will help to make sure that you produce enough of these all important, mood-balancing neurotransmitters.
Those with low levels of B vitamins (especially B6, B12, and folate) are at greater risk of depression, because these substances are required to keep the nervous system healthy and control the production and balance of neurotransmitters. Eating plenty of bananas, avocados, chicken, whole-grain products, and leafy green vegetables will help to replenish your stores.
Those who eat a lot of fish are less prone to depression than those who don't. It's because the omega-3 oils found in fish, particularly one called EPA, help to build brain cell connections and receptor sites for neurotransmitters. The more EPA in your blood, the more serotonin you will make—and the happier you'll be.
The types of carbohydrates we eat affect our mood and behavior. Avoid refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, and all processed foods, and cut down on your sugar intake to even out blood sugar levels, prevent dips in energy, and reduce mood swings. Don't be tempted to avoid carbs altogether, however, because they are necessary for many crucial processes in the body, including the manufacture of serotonin. Opt for unprocessed carbs with plenty of fiber that will be absorbed more slowly into the digestive system and have less of an effect on blood sugar. That means eating plenty of whole grains, brown rice, beans, and vegetables.
It's long been known that stress and anxiety can cause problems in the digestive tract, but recent research has suggested that it also works the other way around, and digestive problems can be responsible for triggering depression. Combat this by eating foods that encourage healthy digestion, such as plenty of fiber and yogurt with live cultures to replenish bacteria in the digestive tract. You should aim to drink plenty of water every day, too.
Vitamin D deficiency can also trigger depression. We get vitamin D through the food we eat and through exposure to sunlight on our skin. Optimize your chances of beating depression by eating plenty of vitamin-D-rich foods (such as oily fish and eggs) and getting out into daylight as much as you can.
Caffeine drinks (coffee, tea, and colas) stimulate the release of insulin, which mops up sugar in the blood, causing lowered levels of sugar and giving you an energy dip. Stick to one or two cups of coffee a day when you're feeling down. And alcohol is a depressant, so it will make it harder" to come out of a depression.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Eat Yourself Happy: Ingredients & Recipes for a Good Mood, Every Day by Gill Paul and published by Hamlyn a division of Octopus Publishing Group, 2014.