Research has shown that there is a relationship between the food you eat and your mood. To a certain extent, it comes down to nutrients and neurotransmitters. The first thing to note is the human brain is, by far, the most complex structure known to man. It is composed of billions of interconnected cells, each of which is capable of communicating to neighboring cells through chemicals called neurotransmitters. (The Internet, by comparison, is child’s play compared to the network of cells in a single adult human brain.) Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are all neurotransmitters that are thought to play a role in helping to regulate your mood:
Serotonin, which helps boost your mood, is made from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and other meats.
Dopamine is one of the most powerful stimulating neurotransmitters, and it is converted from the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in almonds, avocados, dairy products, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Norepinephrine is another stimulating neurotransmitter, which is also converted from tyrosine.
There are a number of important nutrients that may also help boost your mood:
Omega-3 fatty acids help with alleviating depression and other mood disorders. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, nuts and dark, green leafy vegetables are all rich in omega-3s.
Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps protect your brain and fights inflammation, which may cause depression. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene.
In addition to lycopene, many other antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, have also been associated with decreasing depression.
Folate, which is a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and dark green vegetables like spinach, affects mood-boosting neurotransmitters.
Magnesium is a mineral that may help lower your stress level (and low stress is always good for your mood). Spinach is also high in magnesium.
Picking the right macronutrients is also important:
Protein helps moderate your blood sugar, meaning you don’t experience fluctuations in your energy levels or uncontrollable hunger.
Carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits and whole grains have fiber that help keep your blood sugar steady. Low-quality carbs found in sugar, desserts, fried foods and refined grains could make you irritable and cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.
Fat, as in monounsaturated, polyunsaturated (including those depression-busting omega-3s) and even saturated fats are essential to healthy brain function. In addition to the foods rich in omega-3s, olive oil, canola and coconut oil, avocados and nuts and seeds are all good sources of these fats. Avoid trans fats, which are found in processed and fried food.
Finally, eating small, frequent meals (made up of all the healthy foods I just discussed) can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and give you a constant source of energy while keeping you satisfied, not hungry. Which is also good for your mood!
By now you should see a common theme: All of these good-mood-foods are important components of the Atkins Diet! In other words, a low-carb diet is good for your waistline and your mood.