Food to Eat:
Turkey and Tryptophan-Rich Foods Some researchers believe that tryptophan can have a positive effect on stress because this amino acid helps your brain produce feel-good chemicals. “Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter, helps you feel calm,” says San Francisco nutritionist Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. You will find tryptophan in a variety of foods: turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, oats, cheese, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds.
Beef and Foods Rich in Vitamin B Studies have shown a relationship between the B vitamins, including thiamin or vitamin B1, and mood. A deficiency in B vitamins such as folic acid and B12 can trigger depression in some people. You can take a vitamin B supplement or eat foods that are rich in B vitamins to ward off anxiety. These include beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs.
Whole Wheat Bread ... Carbohydrates ... also increase production of serotonin in the brain. When choosing mood-lifting carbs, go for whole grains, such as whole wheat bread or brown rice, rather than processed choices, such as sugar, candy, or even white bread and white rice, Villacorta says. Whole grains take longer for the body to break down, and release sugar into the bloodstream slowly. Processed carbs may give you an initial surge of energy, but that can be followed by an insulin rush, which rapidly drops blood sugar levels, ultimately leaving you feeling lethargic.
Evidence continues to mount that consuming omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines, can be uplifting and enhance your mood. Some studies have shown that patients who took omega-3 fatty acids along with their prescription antidepressants improved more than those who took antidepressants alone. A side benefit: Omega-3s may reduce risk of heart disease.
Yogurt and Other High-Protein Foods
Protein helps stimulate the production of the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which like serotonin, are neurotransmitters and carry impulses between nerve cells. Higher levels of norepinephrine and dopamine have been shown to improve alertness, mental energy, and reaction time, Villacorta says. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils. The ideal situation for mood-boosting is to combine complex carbohydrates and protein, and to spread your meals (4) throughout the day.
Drinking may seem like a good way to take your mind off things, particularly if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, but it can affect you mentally as well as physically. Alcohol can alter or exaggerate the mood you’re in – so if you are depressed or anxious, alcohol can make these feelings worse. And regular drinking can also increase your chances of developing depression. Drinking, together with problems like low self-esteem, can make you more likely to develop depression and anxiety. People who drink to deal with depression and anxiety may also take other drugs that affect the mind, such as cannabis or ecstasy – but combining alcohol and other drugs is even more risky than alcohol alone and effects the brain in negative ways (both mentally and phsically). All drugs have different effects on your body, and these effects interact in ways that are hard to predict. This will be harmful and perhaps even fatal.
Research into smoking and stress has shown that, instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. Nicotine creates an immediate sense of relaxation so people smoke in the belief that it reduces stress and anxiety. This feeling of relaxation is temporary and soon gives way to withdrawal symptoms and increased cravings. Smoking reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to the symptoms of anxiety, but it does not reduce anxiety or deal with the underlying causes.
Nicotine stimulates the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in triggering positive feelings. It is often found to be low in people with depression, who may then use smoking as a way of temporarily increasing their dopamine supply. However, smoking encourages the brain to switch off its own mechanism for making dopamine, so in the long term the supply decreases, which in turn prompts people to smoke more and increase the state of depression.
Coffee and Caffeinated Drinks
Some people drink coffee and other beverages that contain caffeine (tea, cola, and hot chocolate) to help boost their energy levels. The problem is that caffeine has been shown to inhibit levels of serotonin in the brain and, when serotonin levels are suppressed, you can become depressed and feel irritable. Caffeine is also a diuretic -- it makes you go (pee) to the bathroom more. Even mild dehydration can cause depression. Caffeine also can keep you awake, leading to stress and anxiety. Remember that you need to sleep well to be in a positive mood.