Improve Your Mood With These Brain Boosting Foods!
As anyone who's ever been hangry (hungry + angry) has figured out, what you eat (or don't eat) can wreak havoc with your mood. But your diet can also affect how you feel in a more complex way because of food's importance to your body's production of neurotransmitters!
A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that transmits signals from one nerve cell to another, or from a nerve cell to a muscle cell or gland cell. Some of these can be made by the body alone, but others must be synthesized from particular amino acids. Certain vitamins are also usually needed for these synthesis reactions to take place. Here's a list of seven important neurotransmitters and the foods in which you can find their building blocks!
Serotonin is a chemical found throughout your central nervous and digestive systems. It is important to mood regulation, and a deficiency of it has been strongly associated with depression. Serotonin also helps heal wounds, control bowel function, and regulate your sleep.
It’s made from the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is plentiful in, eggs, chicken, turkey and red meat. Iron, zinc, and vitamins B3, B6 and C are also critical for the reactions that synthesize serotonin from tryptophan.
GABA, technically called gamma-aminobutyric acid, is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Higher levels have been associated with increased relaxation, reduced stress, a more balanced mood, improved pain symptoms, and better sleep.
It can be found in some fermented foods, but it can also be made by the body from the amino acid glutamine. Glutamine happens to be an ingredient in our supercharged drops, and it can also be found in foods like halibut, legumes, and spinach. Vitamins B3, B6, and B12 are also needed for the enzyme reactions that convert glutamine to GABA.
Dopamine is most commonly known as the brain's pleasure and reward chemical, but it also plays an important part in movement, memory, behavior, cognition, attention, sleep, and learning.
Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in most high protein food; particularly good sources include avocados and dairy products. It can also be synthesized from related compound tyramine, which can be found in fermented dairy and meat products, shrimp pastes, and raspberries. Folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc are also needed for the body to synthesize dopamine.
Norepinephrine functions in the body as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, and it belongs to a class of compounds known as catecholamines. It regulates our response to stress, putting us into a super-charged fight-or-flight mode when we have to deal with a dangerous situation. Symptoms of low levels include anxiety, depression, changes in blood pressure, changes in heart rate, low blood sugar, migraines, and problems sleeping. The brain makes it from dopamine with the help of the vitamins B6 and C and the mineral copper, which can be found in high levels in lobster, oysters, shiitake mushrooms, and leafy greens.
Acetylcholine is crucial for proper muscle function, learning and memory, and regulation of REM sleep cycles and the endocrine system. It also plays a part in motivation, arousal, and attention. Eggs (particularly egg yolks), meat (particularly beef) and whole grains are your best sources.
Glutamate, the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter, plays a role in metabolism as well as in vital brain functions such as learning and memory. It is found in most protein-containing foods, and can also be produced by the body. But while this natural glutamate is all well and good, excess and chemically processed glutamate is not. That's why some people are wary of flavorings like monosodium glutamate, which have been anecdotally linked to headaches, asthma, weight gain, and even autism. As always, clean, fresh eating is best.
Endorphins are our natural pain and stress relievers; their effect is comparable to the effect of drugs like morphine and codeine! Foods that can increase your endorphin levels include spicy foods, strawberries, oranges, animal proteins, and ginseng. Endorphins are also one of the chemicals thought to be behind the "runner's high" many get after exercising, so you can boost your endorphin levels by spending more time at the gym! Other relaxing activities, like massage and laughter, may also increase your endorphin levels.