World Health Day - Improve your mood with food

April 07, 2017

It is the World Health Day, and this year the focus is on depression and mental health.  According to World Health Organization, approximately 350 million people of all ages and from all occupations, suffer from it. Depression causes mental anguish and influences people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences.

Mental health disorders are complex and even though they are worryingly common nowadays, the reasons are still not entirely clear. However, increasing amount of evidences prove that stress and the resulting depression may involve structural changes in the brain. The brain is constantly working, and interprets events happening and decides whether and how to react upon them. The brain communicates with itself by sending out chemical information from one neuron or nerve cell to another, so our brains is like a big chemistry lab. Unfortunately, sometimes the levels of the brain chemicals, which increase during stressful situations, stay at those high levels and cause problems such as depression.

Although human brain comprises only about 2 percent of a body weight, it uses up to 20 percent of daily energy intake. The brain needs all of that energy to work properly and to create chemicals that send signals through the nervous system. Without enough energy or the right nutrients, the brain does not get which it requires to keep a healthy state. Studies suggest the quality of the foods consumed over the lifetime affects the structure and functions of the brain. For consideration, every hour around 60 liters of blood is pumped into the brain, providing oxygen, delivering nutrients and removing waste products. If that blood was nutrient-deficient, it interferes with the brain’s function — especially its capability to create essential brain chemicals. Therefore, the foods we consume affect brain function considerably, including everything from learning and memory to emotions. Particularly, there are a few nutrients proven to improve the state of the brain and make it healthier.

Nutrients and foods that make the brain healthier:

  • B vitamins - green leafy vegetables, meat, eggs, seafood, legumes and whole grains - deficiency in B vitamins (particularly B12) could be linked to depression
  • Omega 3 fatty acids - fish, nuts, seeds - Omega-3 fatty acids supply building blocks for healthy brain development and function
  • Vitamin D - sun exposure - Deficiency in Vitamin D is sometimes associated with depression and other mood disorders; it is required for development and function.
  • Selenium - cod, Brazil nuts, walnuts, poultry – It is an essential mineral, that works with other nutrients to create antioxidant balance in a body’s cells. There is a relation between low selenium and depression.
  • Tryptophan - dark, leafy greens and lean meat - Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which is known as a “happy hormone”. It is found that low tryptophan seems to trigger depressive symptoms.

Well-known truth is that healthy diet, regular exercising and some sunshine makes us feel better and happier, since the brain is part of the body, it goes to that, too.

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