Are Foods the Key to Your Moods? (Part 2)
By Joan Kent, PhD
How much protein do you eat?
If your moods tend to be low, if you feel sleepy often, or if you have strong cravings for carbohydrates, it's possible your diet is too low in protein.
Protein is made of amino acids. We learned about them in basic biology as the "building blocks" of protein. Tyrosine is the amino acid the brain uses to make 2 chemicals – norepinephrine and dopamine. Low norepinephrine can lead to depression. Low dopamine can lead to the "blahs."
Tryptophan, used to make serotonin, is another amino acid, so it too comes from protein. Studies have shown that diets low in tryptophan can trigger depressive symptoms in susceptible people.
But Don't Carbs Affect Mood, Not Protein?
The point about tryptophan does not contradict what I wrote in Part 1 about a high-carb lunch triggering sleepiness or a down mood. It's because of tryptophan.
Carbs – actually, the insulin they trigger – help to transport tryptophan to the brain, where it's used to make serotonin.
But tryptophan itself comes from protein, so protein is key. We need to eat adequate protein throughout the day so we can make serotonin when we want and need it.
So It IS About Protein!
Last but not least, protein foods contain vitamin B6 and other B vitamins. B6 is necessary for the production of the brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
If those 3 brain chemicals are low, the result may be depression or other mood issues. To keep these chemicals optimal, eat lean protein (fish, chicken, shrimp, eggs, or protein powder) with your meals and snacks throughout the day.
Do You Eat Good Sources of Fat?
Healthful omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, and leafy green vegetables. Good sources of other fats include raw coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds. With nuts and seeds, raw is better than roasted.
How do fats affect our moods?
Higher intake of omega-3 fats may be linked with decreased incidence of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. A diet lacking omega-3s may result in cognitive or behavioral problems, or conditions such as dementia or schizophrenia.
High triglycerides (blood fats) have been linked with depression, aggression and hostility. Omega-3 fats may play a role in preventing high triglycerides. (Sugar, in contrast, can increase them.)
What Else Can Fats Do for Us?
When fats (or proteins) first enter the small intestine, they promote the release of a hormone known as CCK (cholecystokinin). CCK gives us the feeling that we've had enough food and don't need more for a while. That's called satiety, and fats increase it.
CCK also cuts down our carb cravings and consumption specifically. A diet too low in fats can result in cravings and overeating.
For all these reasons, it's good to eat protein and some healthful fats with all your meals.
And now you're invited to find out more about how small changes in your diet can lead to big changes in your moods and your health. Just visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your Empowered Eating Consult, absolutely free.
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Moods, and Transform Your Health.