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How Food Affects Your Moods

Can your diet help put you in a good mood (or a bad one)?

3. Eat a Balanced Breakfast

Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood, according to some researchers -- along with better memory, more energy throughout the day, and feelings of calmness. It stands to reason that skipping breakfast would do the opposite, leading to fatigue and anxiety. And what makes up a good breakfast? Lots of fiber and nutrients, some lean protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.

4. Keep Exercising and Lose Weight (Slowly)

After looking at data from 4,641 women ages 40-65, researchers from the Center for Health Studies in Seattle found a strong link between depression and obesity, lower physical activity levels, and a higher calorie intake. Even without obesity as a factor, depression was associated with lower amounts of moderate or vigorous physical activity. In many of these women, I would suspect that depression feeds the obesity and vice versa.

Some researchers advise that, in overweight women, slow weight loss can improve mood. Fad dieting isn't the answer, because cutting too far back on calories and carbohydrates can lead to irritability. And if you're following a low-fat diet, be sure to include plenty of foods rich in omega-3s (like fish, ground flaxseed, higher omega-3 eggs, walnuts, and canola oil.)

5. Move to a Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish -- all of which are important sources of nutrients linked to preventing depression.

A recent Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, showed that rates of depression tended to increase in men (especially smokers) as folate intake decreased. The same occurred for women (especially among those who smoked or were physically active) but with another B-vitamin: B12. This isn't the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression.

Researchers wonder whether poor nutrient intake may lead to depression, or whether depression leads people to eat a poor diet. Folate is found in Mediterranean diet staples like legumes, nuts, many fruits, and particularly dark green vegetables. B-12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.

6. Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain but researchers are unsure of the individual differences that determine how much vitamin D is ideal (based on where you live, time of year, skin type, level of sun exposure). Researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to improve as their vitamin D levels in the body increased over the normal course of a year. Try to get about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day from food if possible.

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