10 Of The Best Nutrients To Help Boost Your Mood

Diet and nutrition is strongly associated with regulation of mood, and a deficiency in certain nutrients can increase the risk of depression. Some nutrients are important for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin which affect mood. Make sure you are getting enough of the following nutrients for a healthy mood boost.

1. Tryptophan

Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter found in the brain and elsewhere in the human body. It’s believed to be responsible for balancing mood and a deficiency of serotonin is associated with depression.[1]

Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in many foods and a deficiency of tryptophan has been associated with depression.

Where to find it: Yogurt, milk, eggs, cottage cheese, chocolate, dried dates, oats, red meat, poultry, fish, almonds, sesame, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, bananas, spirulina and peanuts.

2. Magnesium

Research has shown that magnesium deficiency is associated with symptoms of mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. A lack of magnesium seems to reduce levels of serotonin, and magnesium has been proven to be effective in treating depression.[2][3][4][5]

Although magnesium is found in many foods, most people most likely don’t get enough magnesium from their diet. The RDA for magnesium is 320mg to 420mg daily, and the average intake is only about 250mg daily. Some health conditions can also interfere with the body’s magnesium balance, as well as other factors such as age, excessive alcohol intake or chronic stress.

Where to find it: Spinach, almonds, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, chard, yogurt, avocado, cashews, bananas, black beans, oatmeal, salmon, potatoes, and peanuts.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3s  play an important role in brain and behavioral function and mood swings and depression are two major symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Omega-3s have also been used effectively for treating depression and bipolar disorder.[6][7]

Oily fish is an excellent source of omega-3s and research has shown a significant inverse association between consumption of oily fish and prevalence of major depression and bipolar disorder.[8]

Although no RDA for Omega-3s exists, it’s recommended to eat fatty fish a minimum of twice a week. Plant sources of Omega-3s (ALA) need to be converted in the body to EPA and DHA .

Where to find it: There are 3 types of omega-3 fats: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, halibut, tuna, and herring are rich in EPA and DHA. ALA can be found in flaxseed oil, flax seeds, soybean oil, soybeans, canola oil, pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil, and walnuts.

4. Zinc

Low levels of zinc have been associated with major depression, and zinc treatment has been shown to be an effective antidepressant.[9][10]

The RDA for zinc is 8mg/day for women and 11mg/day for men.

Vegetarians absorb less zinc from plant foods and need more zinc than non-vegetarians.

Zinc absorption is decreased by alcohol of and loss of zinc in urine is increased.

Where to find it: Oysters, beef, veal, pork, lamb, lobster, crab, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, lentils and chickpeas.

5. Chromium

Chromium is a dietary trace mineral that has an important role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages between nerve cells. Chromium increases serotonin levels as well as norepinephrine, a naturally occurring chemical in the body that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. Some studies have shown chromium supplementation to be useful in treating depression.[11][12]

The RDA for chromium is 120 micrograms, but the average daily dietary intake is only 25 to 50 micrograms per day.

Where to find it: Broccoli, free range beef and pork, mussels, oysters, Brazil nuts, tomatoes, egg yolk and hazelnuts.

6. Iron

A deficiency in iron can quite often result in depression, and iron deficiency is associated with fatigue and mood changes. Long-term iron deficiency in early childhood is linked to mood and learning issues.[13][14]

The RDA for iron is 8 mg/day for men and 18 mg/day for women.

Where to find it: Free range beef, pork and poultry, fish, oysters, mussels, cashews, almonds, lentils, kidney beans, spinach, Swiss chard and dark chocolate.

7. Calcium

Low calcium levels are associated with symptoms of depression, and lower dietary intakes of calcium are associated with an increased risk of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).[15]Some studies have indicated that calcium supplementation can help with depression related to PMS.[16]

The RDA for calcium is 1,000 mg/day for adults

Where to find it: Yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, canned salmon, spinach, kale, broccoli, black-eyed peas, baked beans, oranges and almonds.

8. Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and vitamin D supplement treatment can improve mood.[17][18] Vitamin D deficiency is most commonly the result of limited sun exposure and inadequate intake of foods rich in vitamin-D.

The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU/day for adults.

Where to find it: Sunlight, wild salmon, mackerel, mushrooms, cod liver oil, canned tuna, canned sardines, free range beef liver, egg yolks.

9. Folate

A deficiency in folate is quite common and can contribute to irritability and depression. Numerous studies support the importance of folate for improving mood. Folate levels are lower in depressed individuals and a deficiency of folate has been shown to lower levels of serotonin as well as cause fatigue.

The RDA for folate is 400 mcg/day for adults.

Where to find it: Free range beef liver, chickpeas, pinto beans, lentils, avocados, beets, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oranges, almonds and sunflower seeds.

10. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 helps with neurotransmitter production, and is essential for the transformation of tryptophan into serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. Vitamin B deficiency can increase the risk of depression, and studies have suggested that vitamin B6 can help reduce depression symptoms.

Although it’s rare to be a B6 deficient, research shows that many people could have a mild deficiency.

The RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg/day for adults

Where to find it: Free range poultry, tuna, salmon, shrimp, lentils, beans, spinach, carrots, bananas, sunflowers seeds and brown rice.

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