Genetics are not the only factor when it comes to a positive attitude. Key nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and B vitamins can help to lift your spirits. These nutrients contribute to body functions by stabilizing blood sugar levels and improving neurotransmitter and nerve functioning. Choosing nutrient-rich foods and getting active can help you to both look and feel your best. Please make sure to check with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids that support normal development of the brain, eyes and nerves as explained by Chang, Chen and Su in the Journal of Cardiovascular Psychiatry and Neurology. Three important forms of omega-3 fatty acids include docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and α-linolenic acid, or ALA. These enhance the ability of the brain cell receptors to comprehend and utilize brain neurons. According to the Public Library of Science, deficiencies of omega-3s can lead to depression due to the negative effect on serotonin and dopamine transmission. These two brain chemicals are known to affect mood levels.
Seafood, especially wild fatty fish such as wild salmon or sea bass are rich in DHA and EPA, which are the forms the body can utilize directly without having to break them down. Plant-based sources of omega-3s such as walnuts, ground flax seeds and soybean contain the ALA form. Make sure to always choose flax seed that is ground, otherwise the body can not absorb the nutrient. Breanne M Anderson and David W. Ma, writing in Lipids in Health and Disease say that while plant-based sources are an excellent choice, the body has to then convert ALA to EPA and then ultimately DHA in order to absorb and benefit from the nutrients. The conversion rate of ALA to DHA and EPA is estimated at less than 5 percent.
There is an option available for a vegetarian or vegan diet looking for a direct source of DHA and EPA which is called spirulina. This is a dietary supplement made from blue-green algae.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Rich Foods: Salmon, Freshwater trout, sea bass, walnuts, ground flaxseed.
Vitamin B-6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential to the formation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and dopamine as explained by the Office of Dietary Supplements. These neurotransmitters are required for normal cell communication and low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and migraine headaches.
B6 rich foods: fortified cereals, salmon, banana, garbanzo beans or fortified oatmeal.
Fiber is found in many foods such as vegetables, whole fruits and legumes. It is a type of carbohydrate or roughage that cannot be broken down and digested by the body. The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble. The first can be partially dissolved in water and the second cannot. The Harvard School of Public Health suggests oatmeal, apples and beans are a rich source of soluble fiber, while celery, cucumbers, carrots and brown rice are high in insoluble fiber. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that consuming fiber with a meal helps to stabilize blood sugars and prevent spikes and drops in blood sugar, which in turn could leave you feeling sluggish and irritable.
Fiber rich foods include vegetables, whole fruit, garbanzo beans, lentils and leafy greens such as spinach and kale.
Foods That Make You Crash
Sugar can cause your blood sugar levels to drastically fluctuate, leaving you feeling tired and irritable. Limiting your intake of candy, sugar, sweetened beverages and large amounts of fruit juice can aid in the prevention of blood sugar swings.
Fried foods have a high saturated fat content that may leave you feeling overstuffed and sluggish.
Caffeine found in tea, coffee and chocolate can leave you feeling energized for a few hours but will ultimately lead to low energy levels.
- "Cardiovascular Psychiatry and Neurology"; Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (n-3 PUFAs) in Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) and Depression: The Missing Link?; J. P. Chang, Y. Chen and K. Su; July 2009.
- “Public Libray of Science”; Fish Consumption and Omega-3’s Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Relation to Depressive Episodes: A Cross-Sectional Analysis; A. L. Suominen-Taipale, T. Partonen, and A. W. Turunen et al.; May 2010.
- “Lipids in Health and Disease”; Are All n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Created Equal?; B. M. Anderson and D. W. Ma; August 2009.
- “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Whole-grain Intake and The Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Men; T.T. Fung, F. B. Hu, and M. A Pereira et al; 2002.