Judson Haims: Heads up, the food we eat affects our brain, moods
Special to The Aspen Times
Ever wonder why some days you awake in better moods than on other days? Ever wonder why on some days you feel mentally sharper than on others? It could have to do with the foods you are eating.
If you question the cause and effect that food may have, answer these questions:
• Have you ever noticed how a child reacts shortly after eating some yummy birthday cake or a HoHos (Yodels for you East Coast people)?
• After eating a big bowl of or pasta or a pizza pie, do you feel more like hitting the couch or exercising?
The answers to these questions are most likely universal among all of us. The high sugar content from desserts is probably going to send a kid off the rails and the carbs from pasta or pizza are undoubtedly going cause blood glucose levels to jump and then, ultimately crash. Cause and effect should be rather obvious.
Even if you only partially buy in to these examples, it should not be a far reach to consider that the foods we eat can affect our brain functions and even our moods. How often do you crave broccoli when stressed or depressed? Never. Ice cream is most likely what people reach for. While not exactly great for your waistline, ice cream contains vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and E, in addition to proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that are responsible for boosting a person’s energy.
Vitamins A, B, and D play crucial roles in our body’s metabolism. These vitamins are involved in at least one and often in several steps of the energy production within our cell’s mitochondria.
According to Dr. Daniel Hall-Flavin, a board certified in general psychiatry and addiction psychiatry who works with the Mayo Clinic and has served on the faculties of Cornell University Medical College, New York Medical College and The George Washington University Medical School: “Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.”
Although ice cream and other sweet comfort foods contain some healthy and unhealthy ingredients, they are not our enemy. Likewise, healthier foods such as broccoli, leafy greens, avocados and cruciferous vegetables do not have to be our enemy. It’s really all about balance. As with just about everything, moderation and portion control are key.
The burgeoning field of nutritional psychiatry is finding that the foods we eat directly affect and impact how we feel emotionally. Researchers are finding many correlations between what we eat, what we feel and how we behave. They also are learning how bacteria in our gut affect mood and play an essential role in our health.
If the concept of food and mood is intriguing, find some free time to go online and research “antidepressant foods.” Odds are, you may be surprised to learn how many foods are nutrient-dense and believed to assist in preventing depressive disorders — watercress, spinach, cilantro, basil, oysters and crab are just a few.
Here are two great articles to start your education and research:
Google this: Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. This article was published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and is a somewhat heavy read but full of great information.
Google this: 6 Foods to Eat on an Anti-Anxiety Diet, According to a Harvard Doc.
If you are interested in brain health and how the foods we eat affect Alzheimer’s, go online and search for Dr. Annie Fenn. She is the founder of the Brain Health Kitchen. You may also want to look at the website of the Aspen Brain Institute.
It is never too early to start paying attention to how the foods we eat make us feel — not just immediately after eating, but in the days that follow. Give it a shot for just a month. You may be quite surprised.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.
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