A lot of people think food is pretty straightforward when it comes to improving how you feel. Just pick your favorite meal, maybe grab a beer or glass of wine, and go to town! Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.
A favorite meal or snack will definitely perk you up for a bit, but the effect won’t be as long-lasting, consistent, or healthy as incorporating a variety of vitamins and minerals into your regular diet. There are even some foods that have natural stress-reducing effects, making them a great way to improve mood without resorting to comfort food.
Zinc and magnesium are both indirectly associated with improved mood. Studies show that people with depression tend to have lower magnesium levels than people without depression. Some antidepressants, like amitriptyline and sertraline, actually increase magnesium levels in red blood cells. There is animal evidence to suggest a lack of magnesium in the diet is associated with increased anxiety and symptoms of depression, but more research is needed to confirm this kind of direct relationship in people.
Bananas, dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, and dark chocolate are good sources of magnesium.
Zinc does not have an antidepressant effect by itself, but it increases the effectiveness of antidepressant effects from other food and supplements. Meat, eggs, legumes, and oysters are high in zinc.
To supplement zinc, take 25–30 mg/day, with a meal. Zinc supplementation does not improve mood when supplemented by people suffering from clinical depression.
Fighting stress, fatigue, and anxiety
Need help with your sleep? A great way to avoid feeling tired during the day is a good night’s rest, but for most of us, that might be easier said than done. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita or Chamomilla recutita) has traditionally been used for its relaxing and calming effect. It is often brewed into an infusion (an “herbal tea”). Two double-blind studies have shown chamomile to be effective for people struggling with anxiety and troubled sleep, though more research is needed to determine the mechanism for this effect.
Another option for fighting fatigue is supplementing with ornithine. Ornithine is an amino acid that can alleviate fatigue associated with elevated ammonia levels. Ammonia buildup can be the result of prolonged exercise or long work hours. Several liver disorders, like hepatic encephalopathy, are also associated with high levels of ammonia.
To supplement ornithine, take 2–6 g/day. People with normal ammonia levels will not benefit from ornithine supplementation.
If stress seems to be the root of your problems, supplementing rhodiola rosea and ashwagandha might help. Both these supplements are adaptogen compouds. Adaptogens desensitize the body to stress before it occurs and can alleviate depression, mood swings, and irritability. More specifically, Rhodiola rosea has been specifically shown to prevent and relieve burnout caused by stress. Ashwagandha is well tested and has been shown to be effective for athletes, as well as for people suffering from social anxiety.
A daily dose of 50 mg of Rhodiola rosea has been shown to be effective at fighting