Eat Your Way To Happy
Foods play a large role in our moods, energy and emotions, says New York City-based nutritionist Ariane Hundt. "A poor diet, especially one loaded with junk food, is often a cause of depression."
The brain's neurotransmitters regulate our mood and behavior and are controlled by our food intake, explains Hundt. "The neurotransmitters most closely related to mood are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. When the brain makes serotonin, we typically feel happier and more relaxed. When the other two are produced, we think and act more quickly and clearly."
The key to balancing mood through nutrition is consistency, even during stressful times, adds Hundt. So even though we tend to crave sugary foods for a quick mood fix, the long term and lasting fix is a good combination of lean proteins and lots of vegetables to stabilize blood sugar and neurotransmitters.
Found in turkey and milk, tryptophan boosts serotonin levels to balance mood and provide a more positive outlook.
Foods such as fish, turkey, chicken and eggs are high in protein. Protein enhances dopamine and norepinephrine production, which helps concentration.
There's yet another good reason to eat a banana a day. Bananas boost serotonin and dopamine production.
Complex carbohydrates stimulate the production of serotonin. Sugary carbs do not provide the same benefit. Find complex carbs in whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal), vegetables and legumes.
Healthy fat like that found in avocados helps raise dopamine levels and increase endorphins. And guacamole isn't the only way to enjoy this superfood. You can make avocado hash browns, avocado burgers and avocado shakes!
In addition to being high in fiber and good fat for brain health, almonds are proven to increase dopamine levels.
It comes as no surprise that chocolate makes the list. This comfort food boosts serotonin levels without resulting in a sugar crash or low blood sugar. Look for dark chocolate with more than 85 percent cocoa.
Hartford bioidentical hormone doctor Alicia Stanton recommends drinking green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid showns to improve mood while reducing stress and anxiety, says Dr Stanton. L-theanine promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness and even may increase mental alertness, focus and memory.
Omega 3 fats
Coldwater fish, such as wild salmon, sardines and tuna, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and protect against mood swings and depression, says Dr Stanton.
Probiotics have been shown to improve mood, says Wendy Bailey of Probiotics.org. Our bodies have serotonin receptors in our gut, explains Bailey, and an imbalance in good and bad bacteria can distrupt the production/reception of serotonin. Probiotics keep levels of bad bacteria down. Find probiotics in yogurt, cottage cheese and some cereals.