Scientists are beginning to believe the fact that the gut is our second brain. Is there any evidence that some foods could revise our brain chemistry? We know that more serotonin—the “good mood” neurotransmitter—is more compounded in the gut than in the brain. This perfectly explains why, sometimes, we just want to devour our problems away. If you’re feeling blue, there are some scientifically proven mood-lifting foods and drinks that taste as good as they make you feel.
Some individuals may feel bad because they do not like fish. But when the bad mood hits, try oily fish, and you’ll feel better. Several studies have found that people who often eat particularly oily fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, have a lower risk of having symptoms of depression. Salmon, sardines, and tuna are especially rich in Omega-3s, helping promote proper functioning of the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, researchers found. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people with the highest intakes of EPA and DHA—omega-3 fats found in oily fish—were less likely to experience symptoms of depression. These fats have a crucial role in improving the body’s cells ability to take up essential hormones involved in mood regulation.
Moreover, the results of another study published by scientists from Arizona State University show that high intakes of alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3s found in walnuts and chia seed, can also help you feel good.
How much do you need? More is better, but at least 150 grams. (5 oz) of oily fish a week, and a handful of walnuts. Try tuna pate on bread for a mood-boosting breakfast or salmon salad for lunch.
Incorporating low-glycemic, complex carbohydrates ensure a steady rise in blood glucose that can have a relaxing effect on the brain. Oats, grain bread, soybean, low-fat yogurt, and apples are effective mood boosters because they slowly release energy into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar and mood stable.
Moreover, carbohydrates prompt the brain to produce more serotonin. But about 80 to 90 percent of the total serotonin is found in specialized cells in our guts, not brains. However, because serotonin cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier, it is not enough to include serotonin-rich foods in our diet plan: we have to use its building blocks, which include foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid crucial to the production of serotonin in our brains when its levels are low. Do you know which foods are high in tryptophan? Carbohydrates!
How much do you need? Half a cup of oats porridge with low-fat yogurt is an excellent way to start the day. You can also add a medium-sized banana as a mid-morning snack, which contains tryptophan as well.
Selenium is a mineral that works as an antioxidant in the body. In 2000, researchers linked low selenium levels with greater incidence of depression and other negative mood states. A recent study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal also found a link between mood and selenium intake. Benefits of selenium intake were seen when people who initially had the worst feelings had the biggest improvement after they boosted their daily intake of selenium.
Whole grains are an excellent source of selenium, nuts, tuna, and shiitake mushrooms. Brazil nuts are the number one source of the mineral selenium. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating just a few Brazil nuts a day provides you with more selenium than your body needs.
How much do you need? With only 2 or 3 Brazil nuts you will supply your body and mind with a sufficient amount of selenium for an excellent mood throughout the day. ■