No, we’re not going to the dark side and suggesting any hallucinogenic fungi! You can actually chemically alter your brain with real food, no criminal record to follow. Turns out there really is a reason that some favourites are considered “comfort foods” and that when you’re down in the dumps your body seems to be taken over by alien forces compelling you to go.get.chocolate.now.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a cardiologist known for his “holistic treatment methods focusing on reducing inflammation and maximizing the heart’s ability to produce and use energy.” He is the founder of the New England Heart Centre and Researcher Physician for Healthy Directions (www.healthydirections.com)
Here’s what he had to say about the mood/food connection. “While one or two squares of dark chocolate are good for the heart, a whole bar to boost mood levels isn’t the best advice! The good news is there are a number of other healthy foods that can balance your serotonin - the chemical substance in your brain that promotes feelings of calm, well-being, mental alertness, control, and an increased ability to deal with stress. Plus, they’re good for your heart and your overall health.”
According to Dr. Sinatra, the best foods for naturally boosting your mood (and that of any little “grumps” you may be feeding) are:
1. Nuts and seeds.
2. Ocean-going, cold-water fish such as salmon and mercury-free tuna.
3. Organic DHA-fortified eggs.
4. Ground flaxseed.
5. Soybeans and tofu.
6. Fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, lentils, chickpeas, beans, squash, and sweet potatoes.
7. Whole grains, particularly brown rice, wild rice, barley, and spelt.
8. Organic turkey and free-range poultry
What do these foods have in common? They are low in saturated fat, high in omega 3’s, low in simple sugars and nutrient dense. All of these factors combine to increase serotonin in the brain and that means… happy fun times! (My apologies to the science nerds who are apoplectic right now at my oversimplification). The great news is, the list is plentiful so if your child’s palate is less than expansive, I bet you can find at least a couple mood boosting foods from the list they just might try and love.
And stop the presses… according to Dr. Oz, insufficient vitamin D levels can also lower mood. To that end “one fantastic food that has recently come to a supermarket near you is vitamin D-packed mushrooms. These are mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, which naturally boosts the vitamin D level; one cup of these mushrooms packs 100% of the RDA.” Magic mushrooms!