Choose Your Foods, Change Your Moods

March 19, 2013 12:18 AM

Anxious? Down? Both? How you feed is directly linked to how you feel. While diet is not the only thing affecting your mood, it’s certainly a factor. Here’s the short list of the vitamins, minerals and bacteria (yup) you should be getting into your body to start feeling like yourself again. Don’t worry, I’ve also listed the foods with the highest concentration of each so you don’t max out your credit card buying supplements at the health food store.

1. Vitamin D – The sunshine vitamin! We get plenty of this from the star of our solar system but if you’re Canadian like me then winter blahs can bring you down faster than you can say snowshoe.

Tip: get your D from the sea. Cod liver oil has the highest concentration by far but salmon, catfish, shrimp, and oysters have tons.

So grill, broil or steam some seafood three times a week to improve cognitive function and your sunny disposition. Eating more sea creatures is a great way to keep your brain (and body) in top shape. Just ask Hollywood. For the veggies out there, mushrooms are a good source and soy milk is often fortified with D.

2. Selenium – Go Brazillian! Brazil nuts have a ridiculous amount as compared to nearly anything else. Grab a daily handful of mixed nuts with just two or three of these Brazillian champs tossed in for good measure and you’ll up your energy, memory and brain function. Two or three is really all you need to go from bad tude to good mood.  But, if you’re feeling adventurous or just a little Sweeney Todd, go for organ meets like beef and lamb kidney. I mean steak and kidney pie is popular, right? Just, you know, probably somewhere really, really British.

3. Probiotic foods – Bacteria! The good kind. Healthy gut bacteria help keep your digestive organs in peak working condition. Plus, they boost your immune system and assist in the production of serotonin which makes you happy and helps you sleep soundly (which in turn makes you happy, and so on). BTW, your digestive tract is where a whopping 95% of your body’s serotonin production happens! Get cheerful by going for fermented products like sauerkraut, kimchi (sauerkraut’s extra spicy Korean cousin), miso or even regular old pickles. Spirulina, a type of seaweed, offers the same benefits and is great in a shake. Or just make yogurt your go-to breakie in the morning. Pair that with some Kombucha tea and you’ll be laughing. Seriously.

4. Omega 3 – Fat with a pH! (ha, get it? cuz pH stands for potential of Hydrogen which is how you measure acidity or alkalinity and Omega 3 is a fatty acid so you.. hrrm) Okay, I’ll geek out on my own time but fatty acids are extra important for mood boosting and other things like heart health. Flaxseed oils or fish oils have the most so a good quality supplement is actually not a bad idea here. But class it up by dining on caviar, or keep it real with lamb, mackerel and salmonSpirulina also has a lot (double threat!) but you’ll get it in tofu, potatoes, leeks, and… wait for it… bacon! It’s in bacon!

5. Folate – Fo-what?! It doesn’t matter that you’ve never heard of it. Studies have linked decreased folate levels to an increase in depression, especially in men. Breakfast cereals have lots. Just avoid the ones with buckets of sugar. At supper time, go green with spinach or asparagus as a side dish. Or bring edamame to work as a snack. You’ll be glad you did. Literally. Pack a bag for your bf while you’re at it. Plus, you’re both gonna look, like, way trendy. Edamame is so hot right now.

6. B-12 – Clam up, ladies! Strong evidence shows that B-12 is especially vital for women managing depression. Clams have the most B-12 but organ meats like liver are close runners up. So paté on whole wheat is a good choice any time. Or just whip up linguini alle vongole for dinner. I use whole wheat pasta. Paté and clams can be pricey, so here too you may want to spring for a supplement like I do. But just so we’re clear, I still eat tons of clams and paté because they’re a good source of delicious awesomeness. And I don’t even have a vagina.

7. Tryptophan – The night-night enzyme! If you’ve been sleepy after a big turkey dinner or enjoyed the benefits of a warm glass of milk before bed, you’ve met tryptophan. Sea lion kidney and sea lion meat actually have the most but I don’t know where to get sea lion and I’m not sure I want to know. Their babies look like tube puppies. It’s weapons-grade cute-onium. I can’t do it.  Not to worry, spinach, shrimp, spirulina (boom, triple threat!) and eggs all have this relaxing ally. But do remember turkey (one of the leanest meats and way uglier than sea lions – sorry turkeys, I didn’t invent empirical beauty).

You’re human. K, that’s a big assumption on my part but unless you’re a robot you’re not always going to eat right. And that’s okay. Because if you can work your way up an 80/20 rule (eating right 80 percent of the time/eating what you want 20 percent of the time) you’ll feel better. And look better. PS by eating right, I mean eating right for you – not going nuts every few months following the latest paleo, no carb, tai-chi-roba-yoga-boxing craze out there. Balance. Also, if you’re a robot, get back to work machine!

If you’re having a really tough time with anxiety, depression or anything else that is deeply affecting your quality of life, ask for help. Seek out a professional or have someone seek one out for you.

Now go eat your way to a happier you! Also, avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes (bummer, I know, but it will def help you feel better in the long run). Need a stimulant? Sip green tea. It’s an energy and mood booster. If you need me, I’ll be looking up sea lion pup videos.

Marc Beaulieu is a Montreal based writer and actor.

(Photo by Torkil Stavdal via Path for Life.)

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