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Moods & Foods: Eating Your Way to Happiness

Whether you are suffering from the mid-winter blues, or some of the blues that can accompany pregnancy and post-partum life, food may be able to provide some relief! Check out the 8 nutrients that can help give your mood a natural boost. 

Moods & Foods: Eating Your Way to Happiness While Pregnant & Nursing

When possible, opt for the whole food sources of these nutrients, but know that the fortified or enriched options provide a good nutrient source too!

Vitamin D:
Among its other important functions in the body studies indicate that a Vitamin D deficiency may increase the likelihood of depression, due to Vitamin D receptors being found in the brain.

Sources include salmon, tuna, milk, orange juice (fortified), yogurt (fortified), cereal (fortified), eggs, and mushrooms. And, of course, sunshine!

Find out more about how you can get enough of this vitamin in momme meals post, "Avoid "Fall"ing Back on Your Vitamin D Needs."

Studies have shown that there may be an association between low selenium intake and low moods. While it is difficult to get too much selenium through foods, it is possible to take in toxic amounts with supplements, so choose selenium-rich foods to meet your daily needs

Sources include Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, shrimp, turkey, chicken breast, beans, legumes, healthy dairy (including eggs), and whole grains

Omega – 3:
Omega-3 fatty acids have tremendous health properties and are important for everyone to include in their diets, but especially pregnant and nursing women. Deficiency in this important fat also carries an association with depression.

Sources include fatty fish (e.g. salmon), ground flaxseed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale, chard, collards, etc.)

B Vitamins (Folate and B12):
Both of these B vitamins play very important roles during pregnancy. Studies have shown that deficiencies in these vitamins can lead to poor moods.

Sources include…

Folate: whole grain Total cereal, Wheat Chex cereal, spinach, enriched rice, lentils, enriched spaghetti, broccoli, orange juice, white beans

B12: salmon, rainbow trout, light tuna, beef, wheat Chex cereal

Magnesium is an extremely important mineral for the human body and plays a big role in the biochemistry of the brain. Deficiency in magnesium has been connected with different levels of depression.

Sources include pumpkin seeds, spinach, black and white beans, quinoa, artichoke, halibut, almonds, walnuts, and brown rice

Damaging molecules, called free radicals, are produced in our bodies every day. These free radicals attack healthy cells and cause aging and disease. Antioxidants combat these free radicals and take away their destructive powers. A diet that is low in antioxidants has many negative repercussions, but the brain is at particular risk for free radical damage, which can lead to depression among other conditions. The biggest antioxidants are vitamins C and E, and carotenoids.

Sources include:

Carotenoids (beta carotene, lycopene, lutein) - look for red, yellow, and orange fruits and veggies, such as sweet potato, tomato, squash, red & yellow peppers

Vitamin E - vegetable oils, salad dressings, wheat germ, whole grain products, seeds, nuts, peanut butter

Vitamin C- citrus, strawberries, sweet peppers, tomato, broccoli, potatoes

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your brain. A diet low in carbohydrates often causes fatigue and depression because the brain doesn't have enough energy. Not all carbohydrates are equal, though, and it is therefore important to choose the right ones! Opt for complex carbohydrates for a more controlled energy release, as well as more nutrients, including fiber. Stay clear of the simple carbohydrates that are high in sugar and highly processed.

Sources include whole wheat/grain products (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, millet, wheat berries, barley), fruits and veggies, and legumes.

Protein-rich foods are high in the amino acid tyrosine, which may help increase levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This boost can help you feel more alert and increase concentration (and who doesn’t need a little bit more of this during pregnancy and post-partum, right?!).

Sources include lean meats (e.g. skinless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, 95% lean beef), fish (e.g. salmon, tuna), beans, peas, and healthy dairy (including eggs).

Learn more about the importance of protein in momme meals post, "Protein for Pregnant & Nursing Moms - What you need to know!"

And don’t forget about physical activity, one of the best ways to boost your mood! Be sure to talk with your doctor, and follow his/her guidelines to ensure you are choosing safe activities for pregnancy and postpartum.

And please remember that it is important to speak with your doctor if your feelings of depression or sadness feel like more than the “blues.”


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