Most individuals do not have to take Prozac in order to lift their spirits. In fact, many naturally derived foods contain beneficial chemical compounds that can raise the brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels. Dopamine, a neural chemical, is responsible for administering feelings of happiness and pleasure. Low dopamine levels, which contribute to depression, may be a result of certain diet and/or lifestyle choices.
Serotonin is also another neural chemical that is involved in sleep, mood regulation and memory. Low serotonin levels can cause impaired sleep and memory as well as depression. Below contains a list of foods that improve your mood and avoid elevation.
Foods To Avoid
Many ingredients found in common foods, such as caffeine, can increase anxiety, depression and irritability. Because the body’s neural chemistry is extremely sensitive to drastic increases in blood sugar or stress levels, certain foods should be avoided whenever possible. These include:
Caffeine, a common stimulant found in coffee and chocolate, increases the body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol, an adrenal hormone triggered by stress, is responsible for regulating blood pressure, maintaining immune function and blood sugar levels, and metabolizing glucose levels properly. When cortisol levels become elevated, blood sugar levels become erratic, blood pressure increases, and weight gain occurs.
Caffeine also contributes to anxiety, which usually also goes hand-in-hand with depression. Anxiety is exacerbated by caffeine because caffeine is a stimulant. Instead of drinking coffee, individuals should stick to calming herbal teas, like chamomile or peppermint.
Sugar, a refine, simple carbohydrate, spikes blood sugar levels drastically when consumed. When blood sugar levels become spiked, individuals usually feel a bust of intense energy followed by an extreme energy crash. This leads to depression because blood sugar levels partially regulate mood. When blood sugar levels are stabilized, individuals are less likely to experience mood swings.
Simple carbohydrates, like white breads and pastas, convert into sugar when digested by the body. This also causes a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by an energy crash. This causes mood instability much like consuming actual sugar does. Instead, individuals should consume whole grains, which help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
In addition to avoiding the above foods, individuals should also avoid artificial sweeteners, saturated fats, alcohol and processed foods as all of these can cause sluggishness, slowed thinking, and fatigue.
Foods To Eat
While certain foods have the tendency to exacerbate depression, other foods have the ability to alleviate some depression symptoms. Specific nutritional compounds, like omega-3’s and vitamin D, actually can help stabilize mood swings. Individuals should make sure to consume adequate amounts of these foods and/or supplements:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids, found in salmon, eggs, flax seeds, and certain meats, help to alleviate depression because they cushion the brain’s neurons, which are partly made of omega 3’s. When the brain’s neurons are thoroughly cushions by fatty acids, they are better able to carry chemical signals. Omega 3’s also elevate serotonin levels, which are also responsible for pleasure and happiness. The recommended dose of essential fatty acids is between 1.2 – 1.6 grams daily.
Vitamin D, a vital nutrient that is synthesized from sunlight by the body, promotes the absorption of calcium. Calcium is responsible for maintaining healthy teeth and bones. Recently, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, although it has not been clear as to why. One theory is that vitamin D helps to regulate the brain’s serotonin levels. Either way, the recommended dose is either 10 minutes of sunlight daily or 5-15 mcg daily. Sources of vitamin D include milk, yogurt, fish and orange juice.
B vitamins, found in lentils, bananas, potatoes and turkey, relax the mind. Specifically, B vitamins aid in normalizing brain functioning, which helps the body cope with stress as well as gives it energy. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety. Individuals should eat a diet high in B vitamins to avoid any of these symptoms
Complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and oats, combat depression because they help to stabilize moods. When complex carbohydrates are consumed, they are processed slowly by the body, unlike simple carbohydrates. This stabilizes blood sugar levels, which in turn, prevents mood swings. Complex carbohydrates also regulate serotonin. Other common sources of complex carbohydrates include vegetables, seeds and nuts, legumes, and soy products.
In addition to eating these foods, individuals should also make sure to exercise regularly and sleep enough. lack of exercise and sleep can cause sluggishness, irritability and sleepiness.