Imbalances in our neurotransmitters can cause depression, anxiety, OCD, problems sleeping, and a wide range of other troublesome symptoms.
Neurotransmitters have nutrient based precursors including amino acids, in particular phenylalanine, tyrosine, GABA (gamma aminobutyriuc acid), and tryptophan. Also iron, BH4, B vitamins (active forms of B12, folate and B6), copper (don't supplement with copper without balancing with zinc) and vitamin C are needed to build neurotransmitters from these amino acids.
As an example, the amino acid tryptophan is required for your body to make serotonin. B vitamins, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals are also required. Serotonin is then converted into melatonin. Serotonin is well known for playing a role in depression, and melatonin in sleep.
Eating foods that contain nutrients that are involved in neurotransmitter metabolism may help improve your mood and help you get a good night's rest.
Nutrients for Mood and Sleep
Nutrients important for mood: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, Folate, B12, Biotin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), magnesium, iron, copper, amino acids (phenylalanine, tyrosine, GABA, tryptophan)
Nutrients important for sleep: Selenium, vitamin C, tryptophan, potassium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, iron, calcium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), melatonin, B6
Nutrients and Foods Containing Them
B1: Can be depleted with alcohol. Green peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, herring, crimini mushrooms, ground flaxseed, spinach
B2: Spinach, tempeh, crimini mushrooms, eggs, asparagus, turkey
B3: Tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, lamb, beef, sardines, brown rice
B5: Chicken liver, sunflower seeds, salmon, avocado, sun dried tomatoes, corn, mushrooms
B6: Tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, potato, sunflower seeds, spinach
Folate: Liver, chicken giblets, egg yolk, dried beans, lentils, split peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, beet root, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, kale, bok choy, asparagus, oranges, peaches
B12: B12 is only found naturally in animal products, Choose methylcobalamin for supplemental source, sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, lamb, beef, liver, chicken, fish, eggs, rainbow trout, haddock
Biotin: Eggs, legumes, meats, oily fish, chicken, liver
Vitamin C: All will be higher in vitamin C if uncooked: Bell peppers, papaya, citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, kiwi
Vitamin D: Salmon, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, canned light tuna (lower in mercury), oysters, egg yolk, mushrooms
Calcium: Tofu prepared with calcium sulfate (raw), plain yogurt, sardines, cheddar cheese, milk, white beans (cooked), Bok choy/Pak choi (cooked), figs (dried), orange, kale (cooked), pinto beans (cooked), broccoli (cooked), red beans (cooked)
Iron: Beef, chicken liver, oysters, clams, tuna (light canned in water), muscles, raisins, prune juice, prunes, potato with skin, quinoa, spinach, Swiss chard, beans, lentils, tofu, hazelnuts, cashews
Magnesium: Halibut, spinach, chard, oatmeal, potatoes, black-eyed peas, brown rice, lentils, avocados, pinto beans
Copper: Oysters, shellfish, whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, organ meats (kidneys, liver), dark leafy greens, prunes, cocoa, black pepper
Zinc: Beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, lentils, garbanzo beans, quinoa, turkey
Potassium: Bananas, potatoes, prunes, plumes, oranges and orange juice, tomatoes and tomato juice, raisins, artichoke, avocados, broccoli, lima beans, acorn squash, spinach and other leafy greens, sunflower seeds, almonds
Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna (yellowfin), oysters, clams, halibut, shrimp, salmon, crab, pork, beef, chicken, brown rice, sunflower seeds, milk
Chromium: Broccoli, green beans, potatoes, grape juice, orange juice, beef, turkey, apples, bananas
DHA and EPA (Essential Fatty Acids/Omega 3s/healthy fats): Cell membranes are made of cholesterol and phospholipids, need to make sure there are plenty of healthy fats in your diet daily, and essential fatty acids reduce inflammation, and assist with gut and skin healing. Flaxseed, eggs, fish and fish oils, marine sources (sea vegetables/seaweeds), avocado, coconut oil
Melatonin: Pineapples, bananas, and oranges can help boost levels. Tart cherries and walnuts contain small amounts.
Phenylalanine: Cheeses, nuts and seeds, lean beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, lean pork, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, whole grains
Tyrosine: Cheese, soybeans, beef, lamb, pork, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, beans, whole grains
GABA: Almonds, tree nuts, bananas, liver (beef), broccoli, brown rice, halibut, lentils, citrus fruits (oranges), spinach, walnuts, whole grains
Tryptophan: Turkey, chicken, eggs, sweet potatoes, chia and hemp seeds, bananas, pumpkin seeds, almonds, yogurt
Avoid High Mercury Fish
High mercury fish: Swordfish, shark, king mackeral, tilefish, marlin, orange roughy, ahi tuna, bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna
Low mercury fish: Anchovies, catfish, flounder, hake, haddock, herring, salmon (farmed may contain PCBs, not good either), mackeral, canned light tuna, trout, whitefish, pollock, sardines, butterfish
Go organic when possible for fruits and vegetables.
Go organic, pastured, free range, grass fed, wild caught, etc. for animal products.
Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water per day. For little ones, drink one 8 oz glass per year of age, per day.