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By Rady Ananda

Folks have long known of the connection between mood and food, and scientific research supports this. Not only what you eat and how much of it, but also when you eat and your own personal circadian rhythm impact mood. “Morning people” need different nutrients at different times than “night owls”.

New research by Judith Wurtman, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, links food with individual circadian rhythms.

Last month, Cathy Christie reported on Wurtman’s work:

“These rhythms influence when individuals are more active, and when they are more likely to be sleepy. Research indicates there are different eating patterns for individuals with different rhythms. These eating patterns can enhance energy levels and performance….

“Morning people need their protein-rich foods during the afternoon and evening, particularly if they need to be focused later in the day for a meeting or some other work requiring attention to detail. Instead of a lunch of pasta with marinara sauce, for example, morning people would be more alert in the afternoon if they added some grilled chicken, seafood, or other protein source to their pasta dish, thus increasing their levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.”

Night owls, on the other hand, need “to make sure that protein-rich food is part of the breakfast. Protein provides the brain with tyrosine, an amino acid that is a precursor of the chemicals that promote alertness. A mid-morning snack is another good time to include a protein-rich food, such as cheese or yogurt.”

Choose Your Mood:

Middle Tennesse State University simplified the choices available, based on your mood, using research from Judith’s husband, Richard Wurtman (excerpts):

Boost your alertness with protein. High protein foods include fish, poultry, meat, and eggs. Or try legumes, cheese, milk, or tofu.

For relaxation and anti-stress, eat carbohydrates. Carbs trigger the release of insulin into the blood stream. Insulin goes about clearing all the amino acids out of the blood, with the exception of tryptophan, which calms you.

Caffeine can be an effective anti-depressant. But not more than one or two cups a day.

Folic acid is an important counter to depression. As little as 200 micrograms is enough to relieve depression — that amount is easily obtained in a cup of cooked spinach or a glass of orange juice.

Lack of selenium can cause bad moods. Correcting deficiencies normalizes mood, but getting more does not elevate mood further. Get your daily dose from Brazil nuts, or tuna sandwich, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, or swordfish.

Put eggs back in your diet to improve memory and concentration. One nutrient that many of us are apt to be low on, in our fervor to avoid high-cholesterol foods, is choline. Choline is a B complex vitamin that is concentrated in high cholesterol foods like eggs and liver.

Boost Your Mood:

Cathy Wong suggests five nutrient-dense foods to boost mood [excerpts]:

1) Oatmeal may help if you find yourself feeling irritable and cranky. It is rich in soluble fiber, which helps to smooth out blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar into the blood. Oatmeal is also a great food to help you stick with your diet plan, because the soluble fiber in oatmeal forms a gel that slows the emptying of your stomach so you don’t feel hungry quickly.

Other foods high in soluble fiber are: beans, peas, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apples.

2) Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a type of fat that’s needed for brain cells and mood-lifting neurotransmitters to function properly and possible help some people with depression.

Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, flaxseeds, and omega-3 fortified eggs.

3) Tea – Although caffeine has been shown to lead to a more positive mood and improved performance, it’s a fine line. Too much caffeine can make you dependent and make you nervous, irritable, hypersensitive or bring on headaches. Try green tea, chai and rooibos.

4) Salmon – Vitamin D may increase the levels of serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters influencing our mood, and may help to relieve mood disorders. We get vitamin D mainly through exposure to sunlight and in lesser amounts, through food. Try salmon, tuna and milk.

5) Lentils, a member of the legume family, are an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin that appears to be essential for mood and proper nerve function in the brain. Low levels of folate have been linked to depression. A cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid. A healthy bonus: lentils contain protein and fiber, which are filling and help to stabilize blood sugar.

Other sources of folate include: fortified breakfast cereals, green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli; and liver and beans.

Mike Adams over at Natural News firmly believes in mood foods, but he wholly condemns the use of caffeine. His list starts with:

“High-quality omega-3s [which] provide one of the most powerful and sustainable boosts to healthy moods of any commonly-available food…. You can get omega-3 oils from fish, quality marine oil supplements like Moxxor, chia seeds, flax seeds and other quality nutritional supplements.”

He also suggests nuts, herbs and lots of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables.

Feel better now?