The Role of serotonin an important neurotransmitter in the brain has been an area of research for many decades. It seems that serotonin does play a part in improving depression. But this isn’t something we can just eat. It was thought my eating foods containing tryptophan, an amino acid in certain foods, such as turkey and bananas, would work to help release serotonin to make us feel happy.
However, we now know that the tryptophan in foods, has to compete with many other amino acids when it gets transported and so does not pass the blood brain barrier and therefore does not raise our serotonin levels.
What does increase are happiness?
Certainly brain foods and energizing foods mentioned in my other ‘recipes for your moods’, all form part of increasing your happiness in terms of food.
As does a whole host of foods, that either make you feel nostalgic, remind you of your child hood, your mum or dads home cooking, or the foods where you used to live.
It seems that vitamin D does have a role to play to combat depression, since some of the receptors in the brain are receptors for vitamin D. These receptors are linked to the brain and to the development of depression.
It is still uncertain exactly how vitamin D works in the brain, but it is thought that vitamin D has an effect on the amount of monoamines in the brain one of which is serotonin, which might help combat depression.
There has been numerous studies on the role of vitamin D and depression and the Vitamin D council did a review on a number of different studies comparing the results. They concluded that the research indicated that there was a link between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and symptoms of depression. But also stated that low levels of vitamin D was just one of the factors that contributed to depression.
They also concluded that people who were depressed often would go out less and would therefore have lower vitamin D levels, and that the effects of vitamin D on depression may take a long time to work, even years, so smaller studies would not accurately show its effectiveness.
Vitamin D foods
Vitamin D is important for our overall health, and therefore it is worth making sure you have enough sources in your diet, particularly during the winter months, where you do not gain from the vitamin D from the sunshine.
Here are some good sources:
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and fish liver oils, smaller amounts are found in beef liver, cheese, milk, egg yolks and mushrooms. There are also a number of foods that are fortified with vitamin D, due to the fact that not many foods contain high amounts. Some foods fortified in vitamin D include orange juice, margarine, some cereals.
The sun itself is the best source of vitamin D, but you also have to outweigh the risk of skin cancer, with sun exposure. Sunscreen factor 8 and above appears to block the vitamin producing effect of the sun.
Some researchers suggest that having some sun exposure would be enough to ensure you get enough vitamin D. They recommend approx. 5-30 minutes sun exposure twice a week between the hours of 10am-3pm, to the arms, face, legs or back.
Keeping Blood Sugar level Stable
In todays society we are always busy, often grabbing ‘quick food’ which isn’t always healthy. But there is also an abundance of healthy foods also available to us now.
One of the things that people often do, especially those that struggle with their weight, is skip their meals and don’t eat breakfast. Eating regularly to keep your blood sugar levels stable, often can stop us overindulging in the evening, when we tend to relax more, and are not as active, therefore not burning off as many calories. Eating balanced meals, with carbs and proteins will help keep your blood sugar levels stable, and avoid that cupboard dash to find anything you can to keep your hunger at bay. In this happy foods section there will be foods, that are balanced with carbs and protein, but healthy, avoiding bad fats, processed sugar and salt.
The Colour of Our Food
The colour of our food, colour itself can also have an effect on our emotions. Light energy itself, stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands which regulate hormones. Happy foods could be a combination of different colours, whilst pink foods are soothing, red foods excite us as do yellow foods and also stimulate our memory. Green and blue foods have a soothing and relaxing effect.
Emotion and Food
Foods that make us feel happy are different for everyone, for some people it may be their favorite dish of rice and beans, or a piece of chocolate cake, or some other type of treat, and for others it might be their mothers home made cooking which makes them feel happy.
Food is inextricable linked to mood, and eating what makes us feel happy can be both positive and negative. Eating a packet of biscuits in front of the telly might make us feel happy just before we eat it, but then often makes us feel worse when we feel guilty about eating it.
Dealing with what is causing the reason for eating the wrong foods, is the first step to better health, and then educating yourself on what will make you feel better through diet will make you feel happier in the long term. There will be some recipes included that make us feel nostalgic that may remind us of childhood with a healthy twist.
See some Happy Foods recipes here: