Jenny Tschiesche on foods to help lift your mood and support the brain.
Jenny Tschiesche is one of the UK’s leading nutrition experts. She creates delicious and nutritious recipes for brands and health campaigns including BBC Sport, Sport England, Cancer Research UK and The Realbuzz Group. Jenny is a guest nutrition presenter on QVC and regularly contributes to TV and radio shows including Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio and to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Mail, and Prima. She has provided some excellent nutrition tips for DHB, to help protect you against the effects of stress and depression. These foods are known to lift your mood and support the brain.
Here's her golden list to help lift your mood. For more information about Jenny, please visit www.jennytschiesche.com)
Eat your protein:
L-tryptophan is a dietary amino acid (one of the building blocks of protein) and is the precursor to serotonin, one of the important neurotransmitters considered to play a role in mood. Many antidepressants work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. So, the idea of eating foods high in L-tryptophan is a good concept. L-tryptophan is moved across the blood brain barrier into the neurons. However as L-tryptophan must compete with other amino acids for transportation into the brain, the higher the concentration of L-tryptophan in the blood, the greater the chance of it making it into the brain.
Foods high in tryptophan include meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products, nuts and seeds, legumes, many fruits and vegetables, some grains.
Nutrients shown to help the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin include Iron, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Calcium, Folic Acid, Zinc and Vitamin C. Food sources of these nutrients include: red meat, dark green vegetables, dried fruit, seeds, nuts and wholegrains
Tyrosine is another amino acid and is the precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline which are also involved in mood regulation. While tyrosine can be made by the body from the amino acid phenylalanine so is considered non-essential (doesn’t need to be obtained through food), under prolonged stress your body might not be able to manufacture enough tyrosine. You can however, get it from your diet by consuming high protein foods such as meat, fish, poultry, cheese, yoghurt and legumes.
Focus on foods rich in zinc:
Recent research has suggested that zinc deficiency may play a major role in depression. Serum zinc levels have been shown to be low in people suffering from depression and zinc supplementation has been shown to have antidepressant effects. This research paper gives an excellent description. Zinc also plays an important part in inflammation, immune function and skin health. Major sources of zinc are meat, poultry and oysters.
Magnesium literally calms us right down:
Magnesium is another micronutrient that has been linked to depression. It plays a significant role in brain biochemistry and deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to depression, insomnia, behavioural disturbances, irritability and headaches. Magnesium can be obtained from many foods including green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish and avocados. Magnesium has been used as a treatment for depression in homeopathic medicine for many decades.
Get some sun:
Vitamin D deficiency can is associated with low mood and inflammation. The best source of vitamin D is the sun so try to get 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen each day or as often as possible.
Focus on your gut feelings:
There is a strong link between our gut and our brain known as the gut-brain axis and the gut is considered to be our ‘second brain’. 90% of serotonin is actually found in the gut. Research has suggested that depression may be a manifestation of inflammation in the gut. Depression is often seen alongside inflammatory and autoimmune disorders and some people believe that inflammation may be the major risk factor in depression. Clinical studies have found that using probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin B to treat inflammation may also improve symptoms of depression.
Eat real food:
More recently there has been an interest in the role of inflammation in depression. Foods that are linked to inflammation are wheat (and other sources of gluten) and sugar. Omega-6 fatty acids are also problematic for inflammation. Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids are vegetable and seed oils such as canola, corn and sunflower oil, margarine and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. Processed foods are generally high in omega-6 fatty acids.
Certain nutrients such as B Vitamins – especially B5 and B6, Vitamin C and essential fatty acids can be extremely helpful if stress is a problem, and they will help boost functioning of your adrenal glands. When stressed, you lose more vitamin C, and this vitamin is vital for keeping our immune system strong. Food Sources include:
B Vitamins – nuts and wholegrains
Essential fats – oily fish, nuts and seeds
Vitamin C – citrus fruits, green vegetables