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Good Food, Good Mood

Aug 27, 2012

  1. Salmon: This and other fatty fish that swim in the deep blue sea are chock full of "good fat" known as omega-3. Scientists have found that one type of long chain fatty acid in particular, called DHA, is highly concentrated in the brain and required for healthy brain function. In fact, research has shown that omega-3 fat has a mood-boosting effect--people with higher blood levels have more serotonin and dopamine--two key neurotransmitters that keep our moods happy and balanced. Salmon, especially wild salmon, is exceptionally high in vitamin D, another nutrient believed to affect mood. Vitamin D has been shown to help people with a type of depression common in the long dark days of winter, called seaonal affective disorder.
  2. Spinach: Spinach and other dark leafy greens are brimming with plant antioxidant chemicals. These phytochemicals protect the delicate brain cell membranes from free radical damage which can contribute to fatigue and a dampened mood. Spinach is also rich in the B vitamin folic acid. Research has shown that many depressed people have low folic acid levels in their blood. Other food sources of folic acid include legumes and asparagus.
  3. Red meat: Red meat, like beef, is loaded with iron. Iron is a mineral that greatly affects mood as it transports oxygen in the blood. Not enough oxygen transported to the tissues translates into lethargy, fatigue and anxiety. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are eating enough iron in your diet. The most bio-available (easily absorbed) form of iron comes from animal sources. Plant sources of iron aren't as readily used by the body.
  4. Winter squash: Carbs are the classic "feel good" foods because they enable tryptophan to cross into the brain where it forms the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is our brain's natural antidepressant--it has a calming, sedative-like mood-enhancing effect. To increase your level of serotonin, be particular with what type of carb you eat. Don't go for the simple carbs because, unlike the complex varieties (like winter squash, for example), simple carbs such as sugary soda or cookies cause a transient blood sugar surge followed by a mood-wrecking crash.
  5. High-tryptophan protein: Tryptophan is an essential amino acid--meaning the body can't manufacture it on its own so you have to eat it. Tryptophan is the building block of serotonin, therefore it is imperative that you consume enough in your diet. So how much is enough? Aim for about 300mg a day from protein. Here are some sample proteins and thier tryptophan content: 4 oz chicken or turkey breast has 390mg; 4 oz yellowfin tuna has 380mg; 4 oz of halibut has 340mg.

When it comes to your mood, you truly are what you eat. Combining a nutritious diet with daily exercise is the ultimate happiness prescription. A Fitness Together trainer can develop a program designed to help you stay happy and fit. You'll also receive nutritional counseling through the Nutrition Together program, which will complement your workouts. To get started today, give us a call at 336-545-3065. We look forward to hearing from you!

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