So many things can affect our mood. In this article about foods that affect our mood, Campbell, CA Nutritionist Marcia Sivek shares some insights on how we can improve how we feel using nutrition. Taking care of our emotional health is benefited by taking care of our physical health. Marcia is the owner of BeProvided and is an amazing resource for learning how to fuel your body in the healthiest way possible.
Did I feed the cats? Is the front door locked? I wonder how many people will show up tomorrow? What do I wear? Where did I leave my keys? Oh no, did I forget to buy coffee?
Do you suffer from brain chatter? The endless stream of thought like in a James Joyce novel. Typically this happens around 3 AM and there is no hope of falling back to sleep. You pull yourself out of bed at 6 AM avoiding your partner at all costs because they wake up so darn happy and rested! You down your coffee without a word (always best to not talk before coffee, especially to a chipper loved one). You eventually manage a word or two then grab your juice and toast and hit the road. Neurons start firing and the eyes start to focus better on your commute and life seems okay. That is until 10 AM when your body reminds you it only had four hours of sleep. The uncontrollable coffee and sugar cravings kick in. Hallelujah for vending and soda machines!
Sleep deprivation creates this vicious cycle of no sleep to sugar cravings to fatigue to more cravings to no sleep. It is one of the major risk factors in depression and weight gain. Have you ever considered how to break this cycle? What is the root cause of the brain chatter?
Certainly stress and lack of exercise can contribute to sleeplessness. But what would you say if I told you that changing your food would directly change your mood as much or more as exercise? Would you think I was crazy to tell you to stop eating non-fat products and put heavy whipping cream instead of half and half into your coffee? What if I told you protein provided the building blocks for many of the brain’s chemical messengers called neurotransmitters? Don’t worry; clients have called me crazy when I have suggested this. I totally get where they are coming from. Fifteen years ago I was in their shoes and getting similar advice from a nutritionist. I remember thinking in my head, “What! You want me to eat more fat and protein? I’ll die for sure!”
Because my clients like me, or maybe they like the challenge, they will make the changes I recommend, just as I made the changes my nutritionist recommended. When they walk into my office two weeks to a month later they are completely different people. They are sleeping through the night without brain chatter interruption. They are more productive at work and have more energy throughout the day. They eventually admit that my advice was not crazy talk after all. As for me, altering my nutrition was definitely life changing, and I believe, literally saved my life. (Thank you NWW!)
For over three decades we have been told by prominent authorities, to which we give our utmost trust and believe wholeheartedly that they have our health in their best interest, to not eat saturated fats and consume less meat. Let’s reminisce a bit and see where that advice has gotten us. Within those same three decades, we have seen our highest rates of obesity, depression, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. Hmm what went wrong and why are we such a sick nation if we aren’t eating fat anymore?
By eliminating or minimizing our intake of fat and protein, we have deprived our bodies of essential nutrients, vitamins and immune protection. I am providing to you five important nutrients are bodies are known to need to maintain positive moods and energy.
Okay! We are all fat heads (or should be)! Our brains are 65% fat and 8% of our brain by weight is Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means the only way we can get it is through our diet, our bodies do not produce it. But they are essential to biochemical processes our bodies need to run efficiently.
The building blocks of protein are amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids. Like essential fatty acids, our bodies do not produce essential amino acids. For example, the amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan are both essential and are both needed to produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, respectively. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that transmit signals from nerve cell to nerve cell.
Our natural muscle relaxer is magnesium. It has a synergistic relationship with calcium, the nutrient that is involved in muscle contraction. Due to highly processed food diets and water softeners, many of us are low in magnesium. Some prescription medications will also cause low magnesium. Symptoms of a deficiency can include incredible chocolate cravings (I know this one first hand!), migraines, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and constipation. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens (especially spinach), nuts and seeds and some grains. However, sometimes eating these foods will not supply you with enough magnesium, many of us will have to supplement. I take magnesium glycinate every evening. I found it helps me relax and reduces the brain chatter.
Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D are essential for keeping the body running optimally. Nearly every cell in our body has a vitamin D receptor, meaning it is used in many biochemical processes. It is not just for bone health as previously thought. Adequate vitamin D levels have been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease, mood disorders, diabetes, some cancers and protects brain cells. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, but we wear a lot of sunscreen these days which interferes with production. Fatty fish and eggs are good food sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin B-9 and B-12
Studies have found that 38% of adults diagnosed with depression have low levels or are deficient in folic acid (Vitamin B-9). Low levels of B-9 ironically lower the effects of antidepressant medications as well. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is also commonly found in people with depression. A little biochemistry here, don’t go away! Both vitamins B-9 and B-12 are required to methylate homocysteine to methionine, which leads to the synthesis of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). SAM is involved with dopamine and serotonin metabolism. These are two important neurotransmitters that can cause depression or anxiety if levels are too low. Red meat, specifically organ meats, and steamed clams are great sources of vitamin B-12.