Boost your alertness with protein. Protein foods are
broken down into their amino acid building blocks during digestion. One
amino acid, called tyrosine, will increase the production of dopamine, nor
epinephrine and epinephrine. These neurotransmitters are known for their
ability to increase levels of alertness and energy. No one eats pure
tyrosine, but eating foods high in protein will give you a slight mental
boost. High protein foods include
fish, poultry, meat, and eggs. If you can't eat those, try high protein
foods that also contain significant amount of carbohydrates, such as
legumes, cheese, milk, or tofu.
For relaxation and anti-stress, eat
carbohydrates. Eating carbohydrates will trigger
the release of insulin into the blood stream. Insulin goes about
clearing all the amino acids out of the blood, with the exception of
tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that normally gets crowded out
by other amino acids in its attempt to cross the blood brain barrier,
but when its competitors are out of the way, it enters the brain. Once
in the brain, the tryptophan is converted to serotonin. Serotonin is a
neurotransmitter that has the effect of reducing pain, decreasing
appetite, and producing a sense of calm, and in too large a quantity,
inducing sleep. Research has shown that dieters tend to become depressed
about two weeks into a diet, about the time their serotonin levels have
dropped due to decreased carbohydrate intake.
For the most beneficial effect of
either carbohydrate or protein, eat them separately.
For example, the energy boosting effect of protein will be offset
if you start out a lunch of fish (pure protein) with a roll (mostly
carbohydrate). Make the protein the first food that you eat, and then,
go lightly on the carbohydrate if it is mental alertness you are
Likewise, folic acid is an important
counter to depression. Folic acid deficiencies
have been linked to depression in clinical studies. Folic acid
deficiency causes serotonin levels in the brain to decrease. Psychiatric
patients with depression have much higher rates of folic acid deficiency
than the general public. As little as 200 micrograms was enough to
relieve the depression -- that amount is easily obtained in a cup of
cooked spinach or a glass of orange juice.
Lack of selenium can cause bad moods.
Individuals suffering from a lack of selenium
have been shown to be more anxious, irritable, hostile, and depressed
than their non-lacking counterparts. Correcting deficiencies normalizes
mood, but getting more does not elevate mood further. It is speculated
that selenium may have some unknown neural function, but as of yet, its
mode of action is unknown. Be sure to
get your daily dose by eating a Brazil nut, or tuna sandwich, sunflower
seeds, whole grain cereals, or swordfish.
Put eggs back in your diet to improve
memory and concentration. One nutrient that many
of us are apt to be low on, in our fervor to avoid high-cholesterol
foods, is chorine. Chorine is a B complex vitamin that is concentrated
in high cholesterol foods like eggs and liver. A lack of chorine can
cause impairment of memory and concentration. Chorine is a precursor to
the brain neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is linked to
memory. People given drugs that block acetylcholine flunk memory tests.
Low levels of acetylcholine have been linked to Alzheimer's disease and
poor memory. What a good excuse to put eggs back on your diet plan!