Researchers seek to tame unruly emotions with food-based solutions

Saturday, June 30, 2012 by: Carolanne Wright
Tags: food, emotions, mental health

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(NaturalNews) A staggering 20.9 million Americans suffer from mood disorders that may be linked to dietary choices. Researchers are exploring the effect of poor diet on the mind while searching for straightforward answers to our emotional woes. Findings suggest a varied, nutrient dense diet can significantly alter brain chemistry, leading to more balanced, clear, and joyful mental states.

The power of complex carbohydrates on mood

Consuming a nourishing diet reaches far beyond just simply supporting physical health. Mental functioning, emotional state, and behavior are all influenced by the quality and variety of the food ingested. According to Trudy Scott, a nutritionist and spokesperson for the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, "I've seen people make dramatic improvements in depression and anxiety within a week of making some simple dietary changes." Take, for example, carbohydrates which have gone out of fashion over recent years in favor of high-protein diets. Research has shown that anger, fatigue, depression, and tension are much more prominent in low-carb dieters than those who balance their protein intake with complex carbohydrates. In order for the body to produce serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for curbing the appetite, improving mood, and calming stress, carbohydrates are required.

The type of carbohydrate consumed is extremely important to avoid a roller-coaster ride of fluctuating moods. Abstain from sugar-laden foods such as candy, cakes and cookies. The same for potatoes, white bread and flour. These foods create a vicious emotional cycle of peaks and valleys by flooding the system with simple sugars. The body compensates by releasing insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to plummet. In response, cortisol production goes into full swing, attempting to balance this downward spiral. As cortisol surges, so does depression. This triggers yet another cycle of ingesting simple carbohydrates to boost serotonin and mood.

When the focus shifts from simple to complex carbohydrates, a person's temperamental landscape changes for the better. Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, barley, amaranth, and brown, red, or black rice release carbohydrates slowly, keeping blood sugar levels and emotions stable. Beans are another excellent source of these healthful carbs.

Three key nutrients for emotional harmony

Omega-3 oils also have a tremendous impact on emotional health. Studies show that people who are deficient in this fatty acid have higher levels of impulsiveness, pessimism, and depression. Omega-3's can be found in fish such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel. Other excellent sources include organic canola oil, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, and omega-3 enhanced eggs.

Deficiency in iron and thiamine adds to emotional instability as well. Insufficient levels of iron is associated with fatigue, lack of attention, and depression. Foods that are iron-rich include egg yolks, dried fruit, beets, beans, and black-colored foods. As seen in the Darthmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, inadequate levels of thiamine caused "introversion, inactivity, fatigue, decreased self-confidence, and a poorer mood." This vitamin can be found in nutritional yeast, cauliflower, eggs, and whole cereal grains.

When nutrient-rich food is prominent in the diet, positive mental states are strengthened, thus encouraging greater focus, zest, and clarity along with a healthy dose of serenity.

Sources for this article include:

"You Feel What You Eat" by Radha Chitale, ABC News Medical Unit. Retrieved on June 24, 2012 from:

"Diet, Stress, and Emotions: The Mind-Body-Diet Connection" by Dr. Barry Sears. Retrieved on June 24, 2012 from:

"The Self Healing Cookbook" by Kristina Turner. Retrieved on June 24, 2012 from:

"Food and Mood: 6 Ways Your Diet Affects How You Feel" by Angela Haupt, August 31, 2011. Retrieved on June 12, 2012 from:

"How Diet Can Affect Mood and Behavior" by Jane E. Brody. November 17, 1982, New York Times. Retrieved on June 24, 2012 from:

About the author:
Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, wellness coach and natural foods chef, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.

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