In so many ways, food affects how we feel—from that sense of satisfaction after a good meal with friends to the positive vibes we get from eating nourishing food. During a recent Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) Your Healthy Kitchen, host Rita Carey Rubin, MS, RD, CDE, explored how food influences our mood.

“The type and quality of fat in food significantly affects brain health and mood,” says Rubin. “Specifically, research shows that diets low in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with an increased risk of memory loss, anxiety, and even depression.”

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most important nutrients for nerve and brain health. These essential fats cannot be made in the body and must be taken in from food. They work to keep brain and nerve cells healthy, allowing neurotransmitters to easily pass through the nervous system. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that relay information throughout your brain and nervous system and help determine mood and memory.

Marine plants and fatty fish are the best sources of these healthy fats. These include:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Seaweed

If you are a vegetarian, or avoid fish for other reasons, some land-based foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, though typically in lower amounts and in a form that can be less effective in the body.  Some of these sources are:

  • Flaxseed
  • Chia
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Organic Tofu and Tempeh
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Organic canola oil
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Basil

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises consuming no more than 3 grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids per day from foods and dietary supplements, unless prescribed by a health care provider.

A word of caution: there is a risk of increased bleeding possible when people who take anti-platelet agents or anticoagulants also take high doses of omega-3 fatty acids. Be sure to tell your health care provider about these and any supplements that you’re taking.

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Submitted by Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center