Therapist Corner

Tammie Makely, LMFI - Clinical Director

Making the Food-Mood Connection - March 2016

March is National Nutrition Month, which focuses on the importance of making informed decisions about our eating patterns as well as our activity habits. You obviously know that the food you eat affects your body (heart, muscles, and weight, etc.) but do you realize that what you eat also affects your mood?

Medical researchers have studied the link between dietary choices and a person's mood for years. Think of it this way; have you ever felt down after eating a Big Mac and chocolate milkshake? Have you ever felt positive or lighter after eating a chicken salad or having stir-fry? Well, if you have, then I'm sure you can attest that there is a striking resemblance between the food that we consume and the way that we feel, both emotionally and physically. This is sometimes called the "food-mood connection."

Studies pertaining to the "food-mood connection" have shown mixed results; however, limited evidence does suggest that certain nutrients may support a person's emotional well-being. While having a balanced diet remains imperative, evidence does suggest that certain nutrients may aide in a person's overall mood. Let’s take a look at three popular nutrients:

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: These fatty acids are proven to help improve a person's heart health and may affect a person's overall emotional state. While no one understands the cause for this link, researchers explain that eating salmon, sardines, flaxseeds, and walnuts never hurt anyone.

MAGNESIUM: Magnesium is a known nutrient that produces energy; however, researchers are currently looking for the link between energy and lowered depression levels. Still, my mom always said that eating my green vegetables wouldn't hurt me.

VITAMIN B-12: Vitamin B has long been known for the role it takes in our metabolism and blood cell production; however, did you know that B-12 may also treat depression? This vitamin is mainly found in fish and dairy products. So have a glass of milk today!

While there remain mixed views on whether or not the "food-mood connection" exists, it is important to remember that the food pyramid has been around for decades. A diet of 60-70% health fats, 20-25% protein, and 15-20% carbohydrates helps balance the sugars found in our blood. Eating a well balanced diet includes the many vitamins/folic acids listed above; therefore, who can go wrong with a glass of milk, a piece of salmon, or a few walnuts? Try to find the happy version of you and remember that if you're not happy, our kiddos won't be either.

Is Chocolate Really Good for You? February 2016

Chocolate has long been considered as a treatment for anxiety.While it is true that chocolate will not be able to alter a person's anxiety on its own,there are possible benefits to chocolate overall. Some possible benefits of dark chocolate include possible serotonin production, an increase in caffeine levels, and a definite elevation in mood.

Dark chocolate has been linked to serotonin production. This is because dark chocolate is primarily composed of tryptophan. Tryptophanis often thought to make serotonin, which working together causes anxiety levels to decrease.

One ingredient of dark chocolate is caffeine.While many people contribute caffeine to an increase in anxiety levels, this simply is not true. Caffeine, when used in small amounts, works to reduce anxiety while increasing energy.

Dark chocolate also works to increase a person's mood. This is because chocolate is composed of theobromine. Theobromine appears to offer an increase in mood for those who ingest it in substances such as dark chocolate. But be careful because this is the same ingredient that can prove potentially fatal for dogs.

Wow! There sure are many benefits to eating dark chocolate; however, there are many better ways to attain these benefits rather than chowing down on large amounts of chocolate. Some things that you can do if you wish to give dark chocolate a try to ease your anxiety include:

  1. Remember, dark chocolate is the only type of chocolate that will offer these rewards
  2. Introduce using dark chocolate with other things, such as: dark chocolate almonds or dark chocolate raspberries/strawberries
  3. Don't count on chocolate alone

Tammie Makely, LMFI - Clinical Director