The Food-Mood Connection

The Food-Mood Connection 1

Have you ever noticed that when a bad mood strikes, ice cream cravings and your appetite for salty pretzels (which I consider one of my four basic food groups) are sure to follow?  Most of us are on to the fact that food and mood are connected, but the lesser-known news is that our junk food cravings may actually be a part of healthy living.  Studies show that consuming serotonin-rich foods can boost mood and contribute to good health.

Dear Serotonin: I’m glad to meet you.  Tell me more about yourself.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone found in the human body and known for its significant effect on mood.  Low levels of serotonin are correlated with feelings of depression and anxiety while higher levels tend to make us feel happier. Our bodies naturally seek out foods that increase serotonin levels.  Some of the richest sources of serotonin in food include bananas, kiwi, walnuts, tomatoes, and pineapple.

Wait.  I like fruit and nuts, but I can’t remember the last time I hunkered down with a red ripe tomato to nurse my aggravations. You?

Dear Serotonin:   Me again.  I think I’m missing something here.  Do you have any nice friends?

The Food-Mood Connection 2Serotonin has an important partner in the amino acid, tryptophan.  Tryptophan (yes, the same substance found in turkey that makes the post-Thanksgiving meal nap irresistible) boosts the brain’s production of serotonin.  When we are feeling low, our bodies instinctively direct us to consume tryptophan-rich foods.

What kinds of foods are high in tryptophan?   We know about turkey, but add eggs, many cheeses, sunflower seeds, and other meats like chicken, pork and beef.   There’s got to be more, right?  Of course—just follow your cravings.  That’s right, many carbohydrates are great sources of tryptophan.  You knew we’d get there at some point, right?  Finally!  Our cravings for bready, sugary, carbohydrate-packed comfort foods make perfect sense.  While a daily dose of banana splits (bananas have serotonin, remember??) may not be the best overall health strategy (drat!), it’s nice to know that the foods we are drawn to have real merit.

Busy moms everywhere are masters of multitasking.  Isn’t it good to know that we can make good health choices and improve our overall mood at the same time by choosing smart serotonin and tryptophan-rich foods, such as bananas, milk, yogurt, eggs, turkey, nuts, and even certain cheeses?

Dear Serotonin and Tryptophan: Thanks so much for all the good work you’re doing inside my brain.  I really appreciate it.  Are you sure you don’t have any relatives that would automatically work the carbohydrate calories off of my rear end?

By Signe Whitson, LSW.  Her professional advice is brought to you by My Baby Clothes Boutique.  She strives to attain a large audience to get her message out about passive aggressive relationships and their detrimental affects to our families and children.  She partnered with a baby clothes boutique who wanted the same for families.  Pay it forward – check out their selection of adorable baby headbands, winter hats, and even unique baby gifts.  Sign up to get the latest updates from Signe and stay informed.

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