FOOD FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE MOOD (excerpted from ACE Prosource  Dec. 2015)

There are numerous research studies to support the fact that foods do affect mood and temperament. Here is a list of some of the most potent and well-documented foods, nutrients and supplements that influence how we feel.

HydrationThere is no other nutrient, food or supplement that will affect the brain more profoundly than water. The brain of an adult human is approximately 78 percent water. A loss of only 1 to 2 percent of body weight as fluid, leads to reductions in the subjective perception of alertness and ability to concentrate and to increases in self-reported tiredness and headache.  Daily fluid intake recommendations are 9 to 12 cups of fluid per day for a sedentary individual in the form of fluids, non-alcoholic beverages, soups and foods. An additional 2 cups per day should be added for the following factors: illness, weight-loss dieting, activity, hot, dry or humid environments, high altitude, travel, pregnancy and lactation.

Carbohydrate and ProteinThe amino acid tryptophan is a building block for serotonin, the calming, feel-good brain chemical. Typically, unless you are on a protein-restricted diet, you have enough tryptophan circulating to raise serotonin levels. A lack of carbohydrate in the diet, which initiates the cascade of biochemical events that allow tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain, is the most common dietary reason for low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is also responsible for helping the body prepare for rest and sleep. Therefore, it is a combination of protein and carbohydrate that enhances mood, alertness, rest and relaxation.

Research has found that diets that include less than 40 percent of total calories from carbohydrate can increase the risk of depression in depression-prone subjects.  Furthermore, anecdotal reports of low mood and sleep disturbances are frequently reported by individuals on very-low-carbohydrate diets. When managing a carbohydrate-controlled diet, maintain total carbohydrate at or above 40 percent of total calories from carbohydrates.

Fish Oils: DHA and EPAFish oils may help ease symptoms of depression. Patients with mild-to-moderate depression have benefited from fish oil treatment. Eating three to five 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week is also highly recommended. Fish high in oils include sardines, salmon, herring, trout, black cod, shellfish and canned tuna that contains the original fish oils.

Vitamin DThe role of vitamin D in depression is well documented, as vitamin D plays an important part in maintaining levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.  Studies utilizing good research methodology have shown in meta-analysis that vitamin D supplementation (≥800 IU daily) was somewhat favorable in the management of depression in studies that demonstrate a change in vitamin levels.  Because most adults spend the majority of their time inside, our summers are fairly brief in the northern hemisphere, and the liberal use of sunscreens block the ultraviolet rays from the sun that convert vitamin D to its active form, a daily supplement of vitamin D-3 of 800 to 1,000 IU may be a useful strategy for helping to maintain a good mood.

Choline – Choline, found most prominently in egg yolks, has been shown to be significantly lacking in the diets of Americans. Choline, a B vitamin, is half of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which acts every time we think or move. Choline is half of the phospholipid, phosphotidylcholine, which is required for the creation of channels in the brain cell membrane to allow nutrients into and toxins out of brain cells. Low choline levels have been associated with increasing incidence of anxiety in one study, and may also be linked to depression.

Because there is no association between egg yolks consumption and blood cholesterol levels, the most efficient way to add choline back to the diet is to eat one to two whole eggs per day. That strategy alone will increase choline consumption by 50 percent.

A Plant-rich Diet – The brain is a highly metabolic organ, and research is beginning to indicate that many of the phytochemicals in plants act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, protecting brain cells from injury and reducing inflammation. These actions have the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function. Fruits and beverages such as tea, red wine, cocoa and coffee are major dietary sources of polyphenols, which have been identified as having potent neuroprotective actions. A specialized group of polyphenols, the flavonoids, are found in a variety of foods and beverages, including parsley, celery, citrus fruits, oregano, wine, soy and soy products, onions, leeks, broccoli, green tea, red wine and chocolate. Another group of polyphenols come from berries, kiwis, plums and apples. A fourth type comes from grapes, wine and peanuts.

As you can see, eating a diet rich in a full variety of plant foods will support the kind of nutritional intake that will keep you healthy AND happy, functioning at optimal levels throughout your lifetime.