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Serotonin – It’s Good Mood Food!

The Food on Mood Connection!

What if I told you the food you eat can affect your mood?

Yes, there’s a definite correlation between your food and your mood!

We recently hosted Tina Wankey, MS, Mental Health Therapist, from Affinity Health Systems to speak on the topic of Food On Mood. Her educational and enlightening presentation made me take a serious look at my own eating habits!  We’ve asked Tina to come back again, but here’s a recap of some of the things she covered. They may prove helpful in keeping your eating and your emotions in check.

Food affects your mood!

  • What you eat not only impacts your weight, it impacts your emotional health, too.
  • This food/mood connection is thanks to the neurotransmitter we all know as serotonin. As explained in Understanding Our Bodies: Serotonin, The Connection Between Food and Mood, “serotonin levels can dramatically alter our behavior. Levels too high can lead to sedation (think post Thanksgiving dinner!), whereas low levels are associated with debilitating psychiatric conditions…”
  • Generally speaking, low levels of serotonin cause us to be more depressed and higher levels make us happier.
  • Highly processed foods will spike your serotonin levels, but then cause your mood and your energy to crash. This insulin roller-coaster ride stresses your body and can lead to obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

Low levels of serotonin can make you crabby, depressed and cause insomnia. Even worse, they can profoundly affect your behavior and cause you to eat too much of the wrong foods. Have you ever found yourself choosing junk food instead of healthy food when both were available? Your serotonin levels may be to blame!  So what can you do?

Boost your serotonin levels

1) Manage your stress. We hear it over and over, but stress taxes your body and contributes to lousy food choices, insomnia and poor health.

2) Exercise, exercise, exercise!  It’s free and raises your serotonin levels. No need for drugs!

3) Make sure you are getting sufficient vitamin-B complex – these include folic acid, thiamine (B1), B3, B6,  and B9. They aid in raising serotonin levels.

4) Eat the right foods! It’s not your fault that you crave the wrong foods. When you’re low in serotonin your body craves tryptophan, an amino acid that helps serotonin production. Skip the high carb junk and opt for these tryptophan rich foods instead:

  • turkey, chicken and seafood are all very high in l-tryptophan, but choose pasture raised poultry and wild caught seafood for the healthiest options
  • eggs (pasture raised, organic is ideal)
  • nuts – pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, sunflowers seeds and cashews contain at least 50 mg. of l-tryptophan per 1/4 cup serving
  • bananas
  • legumes (beans, peas & lentils)
  • Milk and cheese (we think full-fat, raw, organic dairy is best) and yogurt (but avoid the high sugar, artificially colored ones.)

5) Get out in the sun! Sunlight or full spectrum lighting can lift your serotonin levels – but don’t wear sunglasses when you do!

Start now to plan healthy dinner and snack options for the rest of the holidays. Have them at your finger-tips when your energy starts to sag. Remember, you don’t want too much tryptophan in the middle of the day – it acts as a sedative. Go for protein sources instead and you’ll be on your way to happier holidays and a slimmer waste for the New Year!
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