Balance Your Mood With Food: How Good Nutrition Supports Mental Health

Our brains are magnificent machines: while the brain controls rudimentary yet complex functions like your heartbeat, breathing and motor functions, it also controls a multitude of other complicated tasks such as creating your thoughts and feelings. A machine this advanced, that runs 24/7, clearly requires fuel to run. The fuel you supply to your hard-working brain is none other than the food and drink you consume.

Like any other machine, the quality of your brain function is relative to the quality of the fuel you put in it. Foods rich in nourishment such as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help stabilize blood sugar levels while increasing your brain’s energy. When it comes to feeding the brain, you get back what you put in.

Selenium

Selenium is an important mineral that your body relies on to perform many of its basic functions. Studies have shown that people with a low amount of selenium in their diet have an elevated rate of depression, irritability, and anxiety. While too little selenium causes health problems, too much can be toxic. According to the National Institute of Health, 55 mcg of selenium a day is the sweet spot for adults 19 years of age and older.

Brazil nuts are by far the most selenium-rich food available. An ounce (about 7 or 8) of brazil nuts contains 544 mcg of selenium per serving, so two or three brazil nuts a day is more than sufficient to get your RDA of selenium. You can also get your 55 mcg a day with 3 to 4 ounces of halibut, roasted ham, or shrimp. Cottage cheese, roast chicken, oatmeal, and eggs also contain moderate amounts of selenium, around 10 to 20 mcg per serving.

Folate (Folic Acid)

Studies have shown that an increased intake of folate or folic acid is associated with a lower risk of depression. Folate is found in a wide variety of food, with spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and brussels sprouts containing the highest levels. You can also get your recommended 400 mcg of folate with avocado, peanuts, orange juice, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, and whole grains, among many other foods.

Omega-3

Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals in the brain that are produced by nerve cells. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, and dopamine controls your feelings of pleasure and reward. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in them, and they effect the transmission of dopamine and serotonin. Omega-3 also has a role in brain development and function, with the ability to stabilize moods. Omega 3 foods include salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and chia seeds.

There are many other nutritious foods that will serve as prime fuel for your brain, helping you perform, feel and be at your very best. Using this list to help change your eating habits for the better is a great step in the right direction.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and would like some support and guidance to live a more balanced life, contact my office today so we can set up a time to talk.

How Blood Sugar Affects Your Mood

Have you ever found yourself feeling hangry? “Hangry,” a mash-up of the words “hungry” and “angry,” is used to describe people who become short and irritable due to hunger. But what does it really mean to be “hangry”? Why do some people get angry when they reach a certain level of hunger?

While high blood sugar could be a sign that your body is not creating enough insulin to manage your food intake, low blood sugar is a sign that your body is not receiving enough glucose to function properly. The most common cause of low blood sugar in a physically healthy person is straightforward – you need to eat.

Low blood sugar can cause mood changes, making you feel depressed, anxious or irritable. For people with mood disorders or other issues controlling their mood, low blood sugar can exacerbate these issues. High blood sugar is typically an issue affecting diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar, can cause a person to feel aggressive or angry. To keep your mood stable, controlling spikes in blood sugar is key.

To maintain a stable blood sugar, many nutritionists recommend frequent small meals and snacks, ensuring the body receives nutrients every 3 to 4 hours. Extremely low-fat diets are notorious for causing mood swings, as fat is needed for energy, to support cell growth, to help you absorb nutrients and produce important hormones.

For maximum energy and satiety, many nutritionists recommend that every snack and meal contains a fat, a carb and a protein. For example, a spinach omelet with a slice of whole wheat toast for breakfast, or a snack with yogurt, fruit and nuts. Limiting coffee, regular exercise and plenty of sleep and hydration are also important factors for stabilizing your mood.

If you’re worried that your blood sugar is consistently too high or too low, make an appointment with your primary care physician to rule out other health issues.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and need the help of a licensed professional, call my office at your earliest convenience and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.