Combat Depression

You can certainly help to chase them with the proper diet. Like every other part of our bodies, our brains are made of substances that come from the foods we eat. Common sense dictates that what we eat will affect all our functions, including our moods. But it is only in the last decade or so that scientists have gained insight into what the brain chemicals are, how they work, and how nutrition influences their activity.

One important brain chemical is the neurotransmitter serotonin, which sends messages along the nerve pathways. Too low a level of serotonin has been correlated with, among other disorders, depression and sleeplessness, although it is not the only factor in those conditions. The body makes serotonin from tryptophan, an amino acid or subunit of protein, which we get from protein-rich foods.

Among the tryptophan foods that nutrition experts think may help relieve mild depression are turkey, chicken, bananas, cheese, pineapple, and yogurt. They should be combined with food high in the stress-fighting B vitamins, such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, organ meats, and brown rice. Carbohydrate foods like pasta work too, because they increase the bodys output of insulin, which allows the small amount of tryptophan in the food to get to the brain and be converted to serotonin.

When your spirits are low, it may be wise to avoid foods such as lobster, egg yolks, and marbled meats, which contain choline, a chemical that can be a downer.Too much sugar and salt also affect mood: sugar because in excess it can cause overproduction of insulin; salt because it can lead to excessive water retention.Be sure your daily diet includes all the essential nutrients vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and whole-grain and dairy products. Balance proteins and carbohydrates, and avoid choline-rich foods. As Dr. Brian L.G. Morgan, author of Nutrition Prescription: Strategies for Preventing & Treating 50 Common Diseases, says By manipulating diet, changing the amount of carbohydrate or protein you eat just a little, you can have quite a profound and dramatic effect on how you feel.Robin Westen writes about health for national magazines.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.
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