good mood supplements

After reading an article by Dr. Drew Ramsey, I decided to try going to the FARM- acy, as he calls it, to help with my elderly father's mood swings. We both now eat organic and shop at my local farmer's market. I also have added some supplements considered brain foods, such as several types of algae, a variety of mushrooms, and sprouted greens to both of our diets. I can definitely say that we are both getting happier, get a long better, and generally get healthier.

~Iruka M., Sebastopol, CA.

The average person in the world has probably already made some connection between food and mood. For instance, how many of us have noticed that after having a giant turkey Thanksgiving dinner we are so sleepy that we might as well have taken an over-the-counter sleep medication?

Some of us know that this is because turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which stimulates the body into producing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin, in large quantities, can make us sleepy.

But here’s what you may not know: turkey contains about the same amount of tryptophan as other kinds of poultry, so turkey’s not really the culprit. The real culprit is the combination of high starch (think mashed potatoes) plus turkey on the dinner table at Thanksgiving. This combination increases the concentration of serotonin in the body, and voila! Instant nap-time!

Doctors and Researchers Now Agree with the Mood Food Connection
While scientists of many types have for years dismissed the idea that food could have such a dramatic impact on mood, many doctors and researchers are now changing their minds. Today studies abound on the effects of coffee, alcohol, sugar, fat, and even chicken soup on our moods. According to one study quoted in Prevention Magazine, rats who consumed chicken soup were more agile, felt better, and even slept better. Crazy? Maybe. But how many times have you reached for chicken soup as a “cure all” when you felt under the weather?

Stressful Statistics

~from the CDC, American Psychological Association, Psychology Today, WebMD

  • At least 4% of preschoolers are clinically depressed
  • 77% of Americans have stress-related physical symptoms
  • 40 million+ Americans have an anxiety disorder
  • The most prescribed medications in America are for depression and anxiety


Skip the Caffeine, Go for the Deep Mood Shift

Powerful combinations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help you build up your energy and capacity to handle life from your body’s deepest levels (your cell’s metabolic and energy pathways). This is what we should all aim for, rather than a quick burst of stimulation from a sugar or caffeine fix that ultimately leaves you feeling cranky or tired. - Kate Geagan, RD, Registered Dietician

Studies Show Diet Affects Mood

Emerging research in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition show that people who eat a diet of modern processed foods have increased levels of depression, anxiety, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a wide variety of other mental and emotional problems. One study found that adolescents with low-quality junk food diets are 79 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Another found that diets high in trans fats found in processed foods raised the risk of depression by 42 percent among adults over the course of approximately six years. And a huge study of women's diets by the Harvard School of Public health concluded that those whose diets contained the greatest number of healthy omega-3 fats (and the lowest levels of unhealthy omega-6s) were significantly less likely to suffer from depression. - Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute

Study in England Demonstrates Effects of Certain Types of Food on Mood

In a study of 200 people done in England for the mental health group known as Mind, participants were told to cut down on mood "stressors" they ate, while increasing the amount of mood "supporters." Stressors included sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate (more of that coming up). Supporters were water, vegetables, fruit, and oil-rich fish. Eighty-eight percent of the people who tried this reported improved mental health. Specifically, 26% said they had fewer mood swings, 26% had fewer panic attacks and anxiety, and 24% said they experienced less depression. - Star Lawrence, author of Food to Balance Your Mood, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, M.D.

Mood Food Effects are Immediate

"Most people understand the link between what they eat and their physical health. But the link between what you eat and your mood, your energy, how you sleep, and how well you think is much more immediate. What you eat or don't eat for breakfast will have at least a subtle effect by mid-afternoon, and what you're eating all day will have a huge  impact today and down the road." - Elizabeth Somer, Registered Dietician, Author of Eat Your Way to Happiness

Mood Food Examples You May Not Know About

"...when you eat fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains throughout the day you keep your body fueled and your blood sugar level on an even keel. And you're getting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Combining carbohydrates and proteins enhances the availability of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter said to have a calming effect and to play a role in sleep. In addition, simply knowing you are taking care of yourself can boost your mood. And we're all familiar with the power of comfort foods. For example, drinking a glass of milk before bedtime can trigger a comforting memory of your childhood."  - Jennifer Nelson, M.S., RD.and Katherine Zeratsky, RD

Your Food's Basic Nutrients (or Lack) Affect Mood

"Getting too little iron can spell depression, fatigue, and inattention, research suggests. Iron-rich foods include red meat, egg yolks, dried fruit, beans, liver, and artichokes. Scientists have also found that insufficient thiamine can cause "introversion, inactivity, fatigue, decreased self-confidence, and a poorer mood," according to a recent report published in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. Thiamine abounds in cereal grains, pork, yeast, cauliflower, and eggs, and getting enough increases well-being, sociability, and your overall energy level. Equally important: folic acid, which helps fend off depression. Green veggies, oranges, grapefruit, nuts, sprouts, and whole-wheat bread are good sources.” - Angela Haupt, author of Food and Mood: 6 Ways Your Diet Affects How You Feel, As seen in US News & World Report

How Carbs Help the Brain

"Eating carbohydrates triggers the release of insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin clears out all of the amino acids in the bloodstream except for tryptophan. In the brain, Tryptophan is converted in into serotonin. Some healthy food choices for releasing serotonin include whole wheat bread, cereals and pastas." - Judith Wurtman, author of The Serotonin Power Diet

Cut Out the "Whites"

"In a study conducted in Great Britain, 80% of people with mood disorders noticed that food choices affected how they felt. They named sugar and alcohol as food stressors, and supportive foods were water, vegetables, fruits, and oil-rich fish. In his book. The Brain Chemistry Diet, Dr. Michael Lesser says that reducing refined carbohydrates and cutting out the "whites" will keep the blood sugar and accompanying mood swings under control. The "whites" are not a bad laundry day but represent foods that have been refined to improve shelf life and are no longer whole foods. These include white sugar, white flour, white rice, and white oils and fats (highly refined vegetable oils and hydrogenated fats)." - Rebecca K. Kirby, MD, MS, RD

You Feel What You Drink

"Coffee, for example, is a stimulant, and when it wears off, you're going to feel a drop... In terms of feeling better or having more energy, it's far better to drink water as your primary beverage." - Constance Brown-Riggs, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

Mood Food Good Alternative to Medication

"When patients come to see me, I talk to them about what they eat and I give each of them my food prescription." Ramsey said that there is substantial evidence to support the claim that certain foods can improve mental health. A study published in Nutrition Journal found a direct association between higher levels of nutrient intake and better mental health in 97 people. "There are more ways to get relief from mental suffering than just the traditional pharmaceuticals and medications." - Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute, as seen on CBS New York