Mood for Life

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Archive of ‘immune’ category

Flaxseeds: single most important food for mental health?

flax-seeds

by R. Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken

Flaxseed helps lower cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, is anti-inflammatory, has good anti-oxidants, and fiber.  It is the single most neuroprotective food; oh yes, then there is the omega-3 content.

There is no doubt that this food is an excellent source of essential omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, the basic building block to other omega-3s – eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Omega-3, and a proper omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, is important in mental wellness and recovery from psychiatric disorders.

But flaxseed offers more than just the ideal omega-3 source; it contains many polyphenolic compounds such as phenolic acids[1], flavonoids and lignans along with vitamins C and E[2].  One study found that flaxseed significantly decreased chronic stress (cortisol) levels, indicating a possible synergistic effect between omega-3 fatty acid and polyphenols[3].  Other components such as a flaxseed lignan (a phytoestrogen compound called secoisolariciresinol) has been shown to have possible applications in post-menopausal depression[4].

Studies of flaxseed oil supplementation have indicated a good tolerance even in the pediatric population where one study indicated its effectiveness in child bipolar disorder[5].

I recommend a daily intake of one to three tablespoons of ground flax, each tablespoon of which contains about 30 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, and 1.5 grams protein[6]. Be sure to grind the flaxseeds as the fine seeds with their hard shell will likely just pass on through the gut otherwise. Flaxseeds can be ground in a coffee bean grinder and the ground powder added to grains, salads, beans – practically any dish for a little texture.

Note that the shelf life of the oily seeds is limited unless kept in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.  Ground flaxseeds or flax meal should be kept in the freezer; at room temperature and exposed to air, use the ground seeds within one week. Smell the flax – if it has a strong odor such as fishy smell, it may be rancid.  A taste test should reveal a mild nutty flavor – if bitter or sour that also may be a signal that it is rancid.

For these reasons, chia seeds, rich in antioxidants and omega-3 PUFAs may be preferable to some.

References

[1] Oomah, B. D., Kenaschuk, E. O., & Mazza, G. (1995). Phenolic Acids in Flaxseed. J. Agric. Food Chem. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 43(8), 2016-2019. doi:10.1021/jf00056a011.

[2] Bidlack, W. W. (1999). Functional Foods: Biochemical and Processing Aspects, G. Mazza, ed. Lancaster, PA: Technomic Publishing Co., Inc., 437 pp, 1998. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 18(6), 640-641. doi:10.1080/07315724.1999.10718899.

[3] Naveen, S., Siddalingaswamy, M., Singsit, D., & Khanum, F. (2013). Anti-depressive effect of polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acid from pomegranate peel and flax seed in mice exposed to chronic mild stress. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 67(7), 501-508. doi:10.1111/pcn.12100.

[4] Wang, Y., Xu, Z., Yang, D., Yao, H., Ku, B., Ma, X., . . . Cai, S. (2012). The antidepressant effect of secoisolariciresinol, a lignan-type phytoestrogen constituent of flaxseed, on ovariectomized mice. Journal of Natural Medicines,67(1), 222-227. doi:10.1007/s11418-012-0655-x.

[5] Gracious, B. L., Chirieac, M. C., Costescu, S., Finucane, T. L., Youngstrom, E. A., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2010). Randomized, placebo-controlled trial of flax oil in pediatric bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorders, 12(2), 142-154. doi:10.1111/j.1399-5618.2010.00799.x.

[6] A very convenient way to have ground flax ready to serve is provided by Carrington Farms Organic Ground Milled Flax Seeds, two tablespoon packets sealed and lasting without refrigeration about one year.

Nutritional yeast for mood, stress, and immune function

 

Nutritional yeast natural source of vitamin B. Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

by R Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken

Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy flavor and is often used to emulate cheese, thicken sauces and dressings, and to provide an additional boost of nutrients, particularly B vitamins, folates, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc. It is a complete source of essential amino acids.

Impressive research exists that supports a positive effect of nutritional yeast on stress and related immune function resulting, for example, in a decrease for the susceptibility to the common cold[1]. Beta glucan fiber, found in baker’s, brewer’s and nutritional yeast, helps to maintain our body’s defense against pathogens. And this is extended to improvement in mood states, related to immune vitality and emotional vitality[2].

For endurance athletes who place significant stress on their bodies, regular ingestion of this substance is recommended.

Keep a container of nutritional yeast on your countertop and regularly, even daily, use about one heaping tablespoon (4 grams) on a variety of foods.

References

[1] Auinger, A., Riede, L., Bothe, G., Busch, R., & Gruenwald, J. (2013). Yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-beta-glucan helps to maintain the body’s defence against pathogens: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicentric study in healthy subjects. European Journal of Nutrition, 52(8), 1913-1918. doi:10.1007/s00394-013-0492-z.

[2] Talbott, S. M., & Talbott, J. A. (2012). Baker’s Yeast Beta-Glucan Supplement Reduces Upper Respiratory Symptoms and Improves Mood State in Stressed Women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31(4), 295-300. doi:10.1080/07315724.2012.10720441.

Maca root: increases energy, stamina, and immunity

My-Vega-Whole-Food-Ingredients-Maca-Root_313x225

Maca has been cultivated and grown high in the Andean Mountains of Peru for thousands of years.

Like Rhodiola, it flourishes in extreme environments of freezing cold winds, strong sunlight, and high elevation (over 10,000 feet).  There does appear to be a correlation between plants that survive in stressful circumstances and the adaptogenic effects that such plants have on the human body and mind.

The root of the maca plant has been used for centuries as a nutritive substance that raises the body’s state of resistance to disease by increasing immunity to stress while remaining nontoxic to the recipient.

The shelf life is an amazing seven years.  Maca is powerfully abundant in amino acids, phytonutrients, healthy fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. This superfood allegedly has the ability to increase energy and stamina, working directly on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

Once again, there are some indications of positive effect on mood[1].

About two tablespoons of maca powered root was used in the above studies. A good source of maca is the “premium” combination of Peruvian sources from “The Maca Team” available on the internet.

[1] Rubio, J., Caldas, M., Dávila, S., Gasco, M., & Gonzales, G. F. (2006). Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine BMC Complement Altern Med, 6(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-23.