“If only there was something that magically helped me truly feel better”.
A phrase I’ve heard countless times. Unfortunately, there is no “magic” cure for making everything all better… no magic food, pill, potion or way of eating. However, food can actually help support a healthy emotional life in many other invaluable ways.
The truth is, our food and our moods are linked. What we eat really does “go to our head”.
So, let’s start with something that too often is forgotten: our brain gets energy from glucose. Yup, sugar. That means carbs are not only amazing, but critical for our brain. That also means following a low-carb diet can leave us feeling depressed, fatigued, anxious and unfocused. Not to mention really “hangry”.
Carbohydrates also help tryptophan, an amino acid, more easily enter our brain. Tryptophan, in turn, helps synthesize serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter.
The B vitamins folate and B12 give our noggin a dose of happy through dark green leafy veggies, legumes, nuts, animal protein and dairy, while foods containing protein and whole grains also benefit attentiveness by providing zinc, iron and B vitamins.
If you think of our brain as a machine, breakfast is the switch that turns it on. When our brain is charged in the morning, we tend to have more level energy, lower anxiety and an overall sense of calm throughout the day. The magic here lies in having a combo of foods – whole grain, protein and fats together, creating a wonderful harmony that sets up a rhythm that more effectively runs our day.
Living in the Sunshine State, one would think that we get plenty of Vitamin D, but it’s actually shockingly common for people to have low levels. We can feel it most dramatically as our moods slump after a few cloudy days, but it affects us in the most subtle of ways over time. Including some Vitamin D fortified foods such as dairy, as well as some supplementation, can be a major help.
Studies have varied in their findings linking fish oil and depression, with many finding that those Omega 3’s can help foster healthy neurotransmitter pathways in our brain. This also makes sense, knowing that fat actually makes up 60% of our brain.
And while you’re thinking of it, our nervous system can feel a bit more calm and composed with adequate selenium – but through food only, as there can be a risk of some toxicity through supplementation. Legumes, whole grains, animal protein, seafood, nuts, seeds and dairy can be your helpers here.
So as you move through your day, notice how your brain responds when you feed it. Do you feel more energized? Relaxed? Irritable? Happy? Get curious and embrace your discoveries, because food can be pretty magical!