Research has shown that certain foods alter mood by influencing the level of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Three neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, are produced in the brain from the components of certain foods. People are more alert when their brains are producing dopamine and norepinephrine. Serotonin production is linked to a positive mood of calm and reduced anxiety. These are top foods that can improve mood.
Dark chocolate boosts brain levels of endorphins, which are natural opiates, and serotonin, which acts as a natural mood altering chemical. An imbalance in serotonin levels is believed to trigger depression. Commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs are designed to boost serotonin levels. To gain the maximum health benefits of dark chocolate without a caloric overload, stick to the recommendation of one ounce a day.
Turkey is just one of several foods that contain tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid. It has two important functions. A small amount is converted by the liver into niacin or vitamin B3. Its main role is in protein synthesis. Tryptophan reduces anxiety levels and restores a sense of well-being. It is a precursor to serotonin and has the ability to raise serotonin levels. It is effective in treating insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Tuna is a good source of protein and omega-3-fatty acids which have the added benefit of being a mood booster. The omega-3 found in oily fish such as tuna is essential for optimum brain function. If concern regarding mercury levels in tuna restricts your consumption of fish, consider fish oil capsules.
Low levels of folic acid have been linked to depression and mood disorders. As a brain food, folic acid regulates mood and sleep patterns, especially in the elderly. Green leafy vegetables, like spinach are a good source of folic acid. Eating fresh spinach is better than eating cooked spinach because heat destroys folic acid.
Milk, either whole, reduced fat or skimmed, is a good source of vitamin B12. The nervous system needs vitamin B12 to synthesize serotonin.