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To understand cellular nutrition, you can take the better part of a decade to earn a PhD in microbiology or you can set aside about six minutes to read this story.

Opting for the doctoral route means deeper knowledge, a nice degree to frame, and many fancy words to throw around. But reading on will simply answer four key questions to provide an actionable understanding of possibly the most important topic in nutrition.

And you’ll save a few hundred thousand dollars in the process. The choice is yours.

What’s the difference between cellular and regular nutrition?

One word—scale.

Most people talk about nutrition on a system-by-system or body-wide scale. (Examples: eating fiber helps you feel full and manage your weight, protein supports healthy muscles, or you should target immune-supporting foods in your diet.) But nutrition, like your overall health, starts in the cell.

In fact, properly nourishing your cells should be—and sneakily is—the real aim of all nutrition. The disconnect is that cellular nutrition happens on a microscopic scale, and involves intricate, complicated mechanisms.

More people will follow if you talk about nutrients for brain health or heart-smart snacks than if you wade into the intricacies of how your mighty mitochondria get properly fed. And that’s OK. Any understanding of nutrition is helpful and great for public health.

Just remember, when you’re talking about nutrition in any way, you’re actually discussing cell nutrition. You’re just doing it without drowning in the complexities and verbiage of PhD-level microbiology.

Why is cellular nutrition important?

Maintaining cellular health through proper nutrition is essential to optimizing your overall wellness. That sentence sounds stuffy, but the concept is pretty simple.

You’re made up of cells of different types. If they aren’t fed what’s needed to maintain health, it’s hard to imagine your body, as a whole, feeling great. Put another way: a building made of broken bricks doesn’t stand long.

Cell nutrition is the starting point for maintaining the health of all your large body systems and overall physical wellness. And supporting cellular nutrition doesn’t require a big shift in the usual dietary advice.

You still want the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and macronutrients you find in healthy whole foods. (More on this below.) But while munching on your salad, you can think about how you’re doing it for your cells as much as your waistline.

I understand digestion, but it seems like there’s a few steps beyond the basics that help facilitate cell nutrition. So, how do nutrients from the diet eventually enter cells?

Each stage of digestion breaks your food down into smaller and smaller pieces that are more useable. After nutrient absorption happens in the small intestine and the molecules are distributed in the blood, your cells can start chowing down, too.

This part can become confusing, so let’s explore—as simply as possible—three of the main ways nutrients enter cells.

  • Route No. 1: The cell opens up a temporary mouth in its membrane and basically swallows what it wants. This process of cellular eating and drinking—usually reserved for bigger molecules—is called endocytosis.

Lipids and proteins in the cell membrane start to form up walls around the molecule trying to enter the cell. This literally looks like a mouth opening up—hence the mouth analogy. As the molecule pushes through the membrane, a bubble is formed around it. That protective coating is then broken down by special proteins in the cell and its nutrient contents are utilized for energy, growth, repair, or whatever the cells need.

  • Route No. 2: Nutrients hitch a ride on a carrier protein (such as albumin). This is like a nutrient having an usher accompany it through the membrane’s set of locked doors and into the cell. In more scientific terms, the carrier proteins latch onto the nutrient molecule and help it pass through into the intercellular space.
  • Route No.3: Hop into an express lane into the cell—formally referred to as a channel protein. As long as the nutrient molecules pass tests for size, charge, and other properties, it can enter fairly easily through the pores created by channel proteins. These entry avenues can help many more molecules per second pass through the membrane and into the cell than any other path.

No matter the route taken, once inside the cell, nutrient molecules are used for their appropriate purpose to support your health at the cellular level. The glucose from carbohydrates in your diet are broken up and used for energy. Fatty acids (lipids) and amino acids (protein parts) are used as building blocks or energy—depending on what’s needed.

What nutrients are vital for maintaining healthy cell nutrition?

Read enough about nutrition and you’ll experience informational déjà vu. That’s because the human body needs what it needs—most importantly, those nutrients labeled essential. And there are only so many ways to acquire it all.

You should be eating a varied, balanced diet full of whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and beneficial fats. That’s the best way to acquire the variety of essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids your cells need. The “essential” label comes from your body’s inability to make certain substances. So they must be found in your diet. You’ll also contribute other nutrients that can help maintain your health, too.

Now that you know the most important nutrients for cell nutrition, let’s see why they’re so crucial for maintaining health. Taking in all those essential macro- and micronutrients help fill cell nutritional needs and support four basic mechanisms for maintaining cellular and overall health.

  1. Energy: You can dive deep into cellular energy production and ATP. But, for now, all you need to know is that your cells break the bonds of nutrient molecules to unleash energy.
  2. Structure (growth and repair): Proteins, fats, and some minerals are used by cells to build or repair cellular and bodily structures.
  3. Supporting Reactions: Vitamins and minerals act as cofactors for enzymes and support key reactions and processes that keep your body running optimally.
  4. Protection: Antioxidants can come in the form of vitamins or other nutritional compounds. Either way, they help maintain cellular health by neutralizing free radicals from metabolism and environmental elements.

It’s a lot to accomplish, but you’re made of amazing cells. Your job in the big machine of health is simple: feed your cells all the important nutrients they need to maintain overall health.

The modern diet and lifestyle can make this tricky. You may want to supplement your diet to optimize cellular health. If you choose to, target products with the right forms and amounts of the essential nutrients and beneficial dietary compounds you need most.

When it comes to digestion, your job is easy. You cook, chew, swallow, and clean up. But after your plate is empty, the hard part starts. A cohort of digestive worker bees handles the arduous task of transforming chunks of chewed up nutrition into more useful forms. And from your mouth to small intestine, digestive enzymes bear the brunt of breaking down your diet into accessible, absorbable pieces.

You’re probably more familiar with the mechanical methods used to turn your afternoon apple into glucose, fiber, and micronutrients. That’s because you can feel your teeth biting, cutting, and grinding food up. You can even detect the churning of food in your stomach.

Digestive enzymes’ work goes undetected while it’s happening—because it occurs on a microscopic scale. Enzymes are specialized proteins throughout your body that support the activity of various important chemical reactions. These enzyme-driven reactions happen all the time without you knowing. But you’d feel the absence if your digestive enzymes took a day off.

That’s because these specialized proteins support healthy digestion. The enzymes working all along the digestive conveyor belt aid in breaking down food. This action is why digestive enzymes help you feel less bloated and full, while also assisting with other occasional issues that can occur when you eat too much.*

But that’s only one of the ways digestive enzymes support your health. Your body can’t use what it can’t absorb. Creating smaller molecules out of your food’s macronutrients is key for maintaining optimal whole-body nourishment. After enzyme-aided reactions occur, your dietary nutrition is able to soaked up by the small intestine—and eventually spread to the cells of your body.*

Without digestive enzymes, eating would be nothing more than an excuse to gnash your teeth. So follow your food’s digestion journey and meet the important digestive enzymes at each stop that help support the breakdown and healthy, efficient absorption of your dietary nutrition.*


A Quick Guide to Natural Digestive Enzymes

Specific chemical reactions in your body require unique enzymes to support their normal activity. This could make for a very lengthy list of digestive enzymes. But here are four of the most important and well-known digestive enzymes and how they’re involved in supporting healthy digestion:*

  • Amylase for starches
  • Lipase for fats
  • Protease for proteins
  • Lactase for the milk protein lactose

You can also think of amylase, lipase, protease as categories of enzymes. Along the digestive journey, there are different subsets of each main enzyme type that breaks down the major macronutrients.


The Mouth: It Starts with Saliva

Your mouth waters at the sight or smell of an impending meal. This isn’t some cartoonish reaction to a delicious dinner. It’s an important step that delivers the digestive enzymes that kick off digestion.

Your salivary glands are responsible for producing several enzymes carried in saliva and mixed with food as you chew. These specific digestive enzymes—including amylase—start the process of breaking down carbohydrates into simpler sugars.

The Stomach: More than Acid

Your stomach growls, rumbles, and expands if it gets too full. That makes your stomach the central concern when you talk about eating. And it does have a big, messy job to do—one that couldn’t be completed without the help of digestive enzymes.

Along with stomach acid, a protease called pepsin—released by the cells of your stomach wall—combines with fat- and carb-crunching enzymes to disassemble macronutrients. That’s how the fats, carbs, and protein of your diet are churned, mixed, and deconstructed into a liquid called chyme.

At this point, your meal is well on its way to a state of acceptable absorbability. But there are a few more organs and their enzymes that need to join the digestive party before nutrient absorption happens.

The Pancreas: A Powerful Enzyme-Excreting Organ

Your pancreas provides a lot of juice to help move food closer to its digestive destiny. Between your stomach and small intestine, enzymes produced in the pancreas take a turn breaking down your food further. They enter through ducts into the duodenum—located in the very upper portion of your small intestines.

These diverse digestive enzymes are secreted to specifically disassemble proteins into amino acids or peptides, and fats into their component fatty acids and glycerol. Carbohydrates are also further simplified at this stage of digestion.

Although not a digestive enzyme, bile from the liver is also key at this stage to helping support the breakdown of fats you eat.

The Small Intestine: Enzymes at the Site of Absorption

You wouldn’t recognize that apple or sandwich you ate by the time it reaches your small intestine. It’s been chewed up, churned about, and broken down.

But there’s one more set of digestive enzymes needed to finish the job and make final preparations for absorption. These enzymes finish the job of simplifying carbohydrates into glucose or fructose and further deconstruct proteins into their base building blocks—amino acids.

At that point, the digestive enzymes have done their job. Your food’s nutrients are ready to be absorbed and distributed throughout your body to help maintain your energy and overall health.*

Stock Your System with Foods Containing Natural Digestive Enzymes

You’ve read about the digestive enzymes your body produces throughout your digestive system. But you can support healthy digestion by adding some enzyme-enhanced foods to your diet.*

Select your favorites from the list below and build meals around them for a boost of digestive enzymes that can help you maintain normal digestion. They’ll also help you maximize your meals by supporting the processes that make nutrients as available as possible for absorption.*

  • Honey
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Bananas
  • Papaya
  • Fermented foods (like sauerkraut, miso, or kimchi)
  • Avocado
  • Kiwi
  • Ginger

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Coffee is one of the world’s most consumed beverages and remains one of the top five most popular drinks. Whether your opinion about coffee is pro or con, your conviction is likely as strong as a double-shot espresso. You know how deeply you feel about a cup of java, but how expansive is your knowledge of coffee facts?

For instance, did you know the origin of coffee is truly the stuff of legend? It’s been said goat herders in the ninth century saw their flock seeming to dance after eating coffee berries. That led a local monk to concoct a drink that kept him up at night using the fruit.

The earliest substantiated evidence of coffee drinking in its modern form was in 15th century Arabia. In what is now Yemen, coffee seeds were first roasted and brewed much like you’d see today.

Coffee’s ability to provide an almost immediate pick-me-up is well known. It’s the reason many people choose a coffee beverage to start their day. Various studies have confirmed coffee’s ability to increase wakefulness, alleviate fatigue, and support good concentration and focus.

But coffee isn’t simply a method of consuming caffeine. It also contains many beneficial nutrients including B vitamins, manganese, potassium, and many antioxidant phytonutrients.

Take This Coffee Facts Quiz

Whether or not you’re a fan, there’s a lot of interesting, lesser-known coffee facts. Enjoy this short quiz and share it with your friends. See how your coffee IQ compares.

 

It could be a yawn or an eyelid droop. But it might as well be an alarm blaring the message “Help! Send energy! SOS!” It’s a sure sign a jolt of something stimulating is needed to keep your energy level high enough to take on your task list. You can try to push through the meeting or chore you’re trying to conquer. That doesn’t always work, though. What you really need is an effective energy source.

The next questions become important: Which source is the best? What ingredients pack the most support for your energy level? What energy source will save you from the oncoming malaise and push you through your frenetic, frantic life?

Luckily, these questions have scientific answers. Ultimately, your choice of energy source is personal and has to work for you. But the information to make a good decision is below.

So, take the time to learn about plant sources (like ginseng and guarana), amino acids (like taurine and l-carnitine), and the most popular option—caffeine (coffee, green tea, black tea, or man-made energy drinks). Then you can make the decision for yourself. And hopefully avoid the energy alarm and finally glide through your to-do’s with energy to spare.

A Few Words About Energy

The most basic unit of energy is the calorie. Your body turns food’s calories into energy. It’s happening all the time. That’s because after food is broken down, energy is created inside your cells from ATP (adenosine triphosphate). There’s a great story about that cellular energy production if you want to know what ATP is and how cells use it to keep you going. But you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the energy discussion below.

Keeping your body properly fueled with nutritious, varied foods is important. Without the calories in food, you won’t have the energy to do anything. And you also need a healthy amount of sleep to refresh and rejuvenate your body.

Diet and sleep are certainly the cornerstones of solid energy levels. But life throws a lot at you. And you probably find yourself outmatched occasionally and reaching for something more. For many, that’s an energy drink (could be coffee or tea, too) to help them tackle the seemingly endless flow of tasks.

So, let’s talk about compounds that keep you alert, focused, and feeling energized mentally and physically. Those are the energy sources that stimulate your body and brain to fuel your productivity when you need it most.

Without further ado, find out more about popular energy drink ingredients that can help you maintain your energy levels.

Ginseng to Get the Job Done

Turning to ginseng for an energy boost isn’t new. It’s been part of ancient traditions for hundreds of years.

Asian ginseng is most known for its energizing properties—of the 11 types of ginseng growing around the world. Regardless of species, the real energy source in all types of ginseng is a compound called ginsenoside (a plant steroid).

Ginseng and its active compounds have been shown to benefit:

  • mood
  • energy (specifically fighting fatigue)
  • antioxidant activity
  • cellular energy production

Research about how ginseng helps fight against mental and physical fatigue exists, but isn’t robust. It’s theorized that ginseng’s mental effects come from increased levels of certain brain chemicals and its impact on aerobic energy production in the brain. Physical mechanisms have been harder to nail down. And the conclusions are best described as theories right now. That’s because more study is needed to figure out exactly how the stimulating root works in your body.

In fact, some research has struggled to show significant results to back up the effectiveness of ginseng on reducing fatigue and boosting physical performance. A meta-analysis (a study of existing studies) suggested more and better studies—large, randomized, controlled trials—should be done on ginseng’s effectiveness.

That’s the consensus of modern science. But it doesn’t take into account the centuries of usage in traditional applications.

The good news for someone looking to test out ginseng as an energy source is that it’s safe and readily available. Just make sure to consult your physician or pharmacist for possible drug interactions. And also research has shown that cycling ginseng (two or three weeks on and a week off) is a more effective way to use it as an energy supplement.

Turning to Taurine to Tame Tiredness

Usually an amino acid would lead to a discussion of protein structures. But taurine isn’t a typical amino acid. You can find it in your diet in meat and fish, and all over your body—in your heart, brain, eyes, and blood platelets. That’s because your body makes taurine and needs it.

But if you’ve heard about taurine at all, it was probably in a discussion about energy drink ingredients. The amino acid has been popping up in popular drinks since these energizing beverages started hitting store shelves.

Why is taurine turned to so often to boost energy levels, though? The answer probably has something to do with the amino acid’s role in energy metabolism. It also may act like an antioxidant, and it helps with hydration and cellular electrolyte balance, too.

The research on taurine as an energy source is mixed. When combined with caffeine and B vitamins (in a popular energy drink brand), studies have found promising results. That includes suggested benefits related to fighting fatigue among drivers, impacting attention in adolescents, and countering sleepiness.

But it’s hard to pin those promising results directly on taurine instead of the combination of energy drink ingredients. Taurine by itself has slim evidence for improvements in energy. And one study showed taking the amino acid before exercise didn’t help overall performance.

Taurine has been shown to be possibly safe at reasonable doses—with no major side effects found. But it’s hard to be too bullish on taurine as a standalone energy supplement.

Are B Vitamins Your Energy Answer?

You need B vitamins. These essential vitamins are, well, essential to your survival. But claims made about B vitamins increasing energy levels are more suspect.

The fact is, without B vitamins, energy production in your body doesn’t operate properly. Each B vitamin works differently, but they generally help facilitate the complex conversion of foods into energy. So, in one way, B vitamins are all about energy.

But taking extra B vitamins isn’t a direct solution for those seeking energy sources. To feel any fatigue-busting effects, you would need to be deficient in one of the B vitamins. And you don’t want to be in that situation to begin with.

So, be wary of products claiming energy boosts from B vitamins. But don’t disregard the importance of these essential nutrients to your overall health. Here’s a useful guide to each of the B vitamins to boost your nutrition knowledge.

Your Guide to Guarana

The world’s energy drinkers are discovering what tribes of the Amazon have known for a long time. Guarana has a quite a kick.

The seeds of this Amazonian climbing plant have been used therapeutically for centuries. It contains a big punch of caffeine—about four to six times more than you find in coffee beans.

But caffeine isn’t the only thing guarana has going for it as a source of energy. Other compounds in the seeds (theophylline and theobromine) could make the stimulating product more potent than caffeine alone. That’s because they are also caffeine-like stimulating substances.

Guarana also sports a green-tea-like antioxidant profile. One of the Amazonian seed’s most potent antioxidant compounds is catechin. This plant phenol (type of plant chemical) is one of the main connections between the antioxidant possibilities of guarana and green tea.

What does the research have to say about the combination of energy sources found in guarana? Not much because it’s pretty limited. One study aimed to discover whether guarana’s mix of stimulating compounds was more effective than just caffeine. Researchers found that lower doses of the energizing mix in guarana did stimulate in the short-term. But the study also called for more research on the effectiveness of guarana in boosting energy levels.

Research on the safety of the seeds has been positive. It has been found to have low toxicity in reasonable doses. And it’s widely available—both as a standalone product and in energy drinks. But people who are sensitive to caffeine, pregnant women, adolescents, and children should be cautious about how much they consume.

Getting to the Meat of L-Carnitine’s Energy Benefits

Since it was first isolated from meat, l-carnitine got a very fleshy sounding name. But this derivative of an amino acid (lysine) has more to do with energy production than muscle building.

L-carnitine helps chauffeur fatty acids into the power plants of your cells (the mitochondria). Without hitching a ride with l-carnitine, fats you eat couldn’t efficiently be used for energy production. And fat—which, don’t forget, is one of the essential macronutrients—is full of potential energy.

The research done on l-carnitine is promising. Usage for 30 days was found to positively impact fatigue—both mental and physical. But doses over three grams per day—about triple what would be recommended—were found to cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues.

Caffeine is the King of Energy Sources

You or someone you know has almost certainly turned to caffeine for a pick-me-up. As long as you’re reading this during the day, you know someone who has had caffeine in the last hour. It’s that popular.

And there’s good reason for caffeine’s ubiquity. It works. Consuming caffeine is a well-established way to fight fatigue naturally. It doesn’t even matter the source.

You might feel like caffeine has a magical ability to power you through your day. But the way it works is pretty established science. Caffeine cranks up your metabolism and supports naturally stimulating chemicals in your body. It also exhilarates your central nervous system, starting with a handy trick it plays in your brain.

Caffeine fits into a receptor in your brain for a compound called adenosine. When adenosine clicks into its receptor, it usually helps you relax. But when caffeine takes its place—effectively blocking the adenosine—your brain and nervous system do the opposite. And that’s how caffeine revs up your central nervous system. It’s why it helps you feel alert and energized.

But you don’t want to overdo it with caffeine. Otherwise, too much caffeine can make you overly anxious and even shaky. It is potent, and a healthy adult shouldn’t consume more than three to four hundred milligrams per day. Some people—including pregnant women, adolescents and children—are more sensitive to caffeine and will need to limit their intake even more. And remember that high doses of caffeine can lead to a hard crash. So, you may want to spread out your caffeine consumption in smaller amounts throughout the day.

For most, the question about caffeine isn’t whether it works on energy levels. Instead, it’s which source is best and how much caffeine each beverage contains? The following table can help you answer those questions.

Beverage Type Amount of Caffeine Antioxidant Activity? Other Important Compounds Fun Fact
Brewed Coffee (non-decaf, non-espresso) 85–165 milligrams (mg) per eight ounces (237 milliliters) Yes Phenolic compounds (like chlorogenic acids), ferulic acid, and magnesium The more roasted the coffee bean, the less caffeine remains in your cup. So, light roast packs the biggest caffeine punch.
Black Tea (freshly brewed, not bottled) 25–48 mg per eight ounces (237 mL) Yes L-theanine (an amino acid that could impact brain chemicals), flavonoids, catechins, and tannins Black tea comes from the same plant as green tea, but is fermented, which accounts for the color difference.
Green Tea (freshly brewed, not bottled) 25–29 mg per eight ounces (237 mL) Yes Similar to black tea: L-theanine (an amino acid that could impact brain chemicals), flavonoids, and catechins (including EGCG, or Epigallocatechin Gallate) Green tea (and black tea and matcha) all come from a bushy plant (Camellia sinensis) that’s native to China.

Select Your Stimulating Beverage Carefully

You know the energy level you need to maintain to tackle your to-do list. And now you understand a little more about energy sources that can help you cross the finish line. But don’t forget to pay attention to the calories and sugar content of whatever beverage you choose.

Getting too much sugar will wind you up only to trigger a big crash. Plus, all the extra calories in sugary sodas, energy drinks, and fancy coffees might slow down your weight-management efforts.

So, next time your energy alarm goes off, you know what to do. Turn to the energy source that will work best for what you need. And then bask in a wave of energy that can wash away your to-do list.

Hanger (a combination of hunger and anger) is a very real emotional response for some. It rears its ugly head when you’re hungry and food isn’t forthcoming. If you’ve ever experienced hanger, you know the power food has over your mood.

But the impact eating has on your attitude is about more than keeping your belly full. There are important ties between specific nutrients and mood. Those connections deserve exploration. That’s because nutritional remedies can pair well with healthy habits, self-care, professional recommendations, and lifestyle adjustment to help manage your mood.

You can design a diet that keeps you satisfied and helps your body maintain the conditions for a bright mood. And it will help you keep the hanger at bay.

The Basics of Food, Nutrients, and Mood

If you’re wondering why food is important to your mood, blame your brain—mostly. Your body’s command center deals with the demands of running your body. But it’s also pretty demanding, too.

Your brain churns through a lot of energy. It also is a bit of a hedonist—valuing pleasurable reward over almost anything. Food is the key to caloric contentment and also provides pleasure for your brain. Eating triggers the release of important brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) with ties to mood—especially endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.

It’s not just your brain, though. The nutritional needs of your whole body can impact how you feel. Even small nutrient insufficiencies can have major consequences. A lack of some micronutrients can start a chain reaction. Enzymes (helper proteins in your body) don’t work as well without vitamins and minerals to aid their activity. When enzymes aren’t in tip-top shape, your mood—and other aspects of your health—can suffer.

That’s probably why adequate nutrition (including supplementation) has been shown in many studies and meta-analyses to support your mood. One specific double-blind experiment tested large doses of nine vitamins against a placebo. After a year, males and females both reported being more agreeable.

Science backs up the ties between food, nutrients, and mood. So, how can you use this knowledge to your advantage? What nutrients and foods should you target? The answers await in this list of mood-supporting nutrients and compounds.

Magnesium for Your Mood

Your whole body needs magnesium. That’s why it’s an essential mineral. But it goes above and beyond, acting as a helper for over 300 enzyme systems in your body. With that widespread impact, there have to be some crossovers with mood management, right?

One such connection between magnesium and mood happens in your brain (no surprise). The mineral acts as a buffer for important receptors in nerve and brain cells. This protective action helps keep these cells healthy.

Magnesium also plays a role in stress responses. It acts as a triple-pronged check on stress responses in your body:

  • In the brain, it helps maintain normal stress-hormone levels.
  • Atop the kidneys, magnesium supports the adrenal glands’ normal response to a hormone that activates cortisol and adrenaline production, which helps support healthy levels of these stress hormones.
  • In the bloodstream, it can act as a blood-brain barrier to maintain a healthy interaction between stress hormones and the brain.

To top it all off, magnesium has ties to maintaining normal, healthy serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is your master mood maintainer and is tied to feelings of happiness.

Find magnesium in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meats, and milk. Even some hard water contains variable amounts of this mineral.

Zinc is an Amazing Mood Metal

Like magnesium, zinc is a helper in over 300 enzymes. But the biggest stock of zinc is in your brain’s hippocampus—a major mood center.

Zinc also aids in brain health through its role in cell growth, differentiation, and neural function. It participates in fine-tuning stress responses in your brain and body. Zinc is even important to cell signaling and various brain chemicals.

Studies about memory, learning, and mood have found links between optimal zinc levels and supporting brain health and normal mood maintenance. Don’t miss out on this mineral. You can find zinc in meat, liver, eggs, oysters, and seafood.

In the Mood for B Vitamins

If you get overwhelmed trying to understand the differences between all the B vitamins, there’s a solution. Take a variety of these eight essential vitamins. It won’t help you keep them straight, but many of the B vitamins have been shown to support your mood. So, at least you’ll feel OK about it.

B vitamins are critical in the production of brain chemicals that impact your mood—particularly dopamine and serotonin. Both of those brain chemicals have ties to happiness and pleasure. If you don’t have enough B vitamins (especially B6 and B12) to make adequate amounts of the neurotransmitters, you can start to feel it.

Several B vitamins also help keep your nerves healthy. That’s important for good communication, which plays a role in your overall state of mind. Thiamin (B1) has also been show in studies to support mood.

The B vitamins are scattered throughout the dietary landscape. Find thiamin in brown rice and squash. Riboflavin is in dairy products, spinach, almonds, and broccoli. Beans, bananas, potatoes, meat, and nuts contain vitamin B6. For folate, turn to legumes, asparagus, fortified breakfast cereals, and spinach. And B12 is abundant in seafood, beef, fish, and eggs.

Omega-3s: In Mood, Fat is Your Friend

Your brain is about 60 percent fat. It’s just a fact, because fat—especially essential fatty acids like omega-3s—is what your brain is mainly made out of. And since your brain is largely responsible for your mood, fat has ties to how you feel.

The fatty makeup of your central nervous system is crucial to proper signaling. Omega-3s make up about 20 percent of your brain cell membranes and your nervous system is also composed of a lot of fat. So, keeping those membranes stocked with essential fatty acids help maintain healthy membranes, which helps promote healthy signaling and support a balanced mood.

Your body can’t make enough of the important omega-3s (DHA and EPA) you need. That’s why they’re so important. You’ll have to turn to your diet. Adding more fatty, cold-water fish (think mackerel, salmon, herring, and anchovies) to your meals is a great way to get more omega-3 DHA and EPA.

Caffeine Can Elevate More Than Energy

You don’t want to talk to some people before they’ve had their morning coffee. Blame caffeine.

The world’s most popular natural stimulant has big effects on energy and mood. It revs up the body’s central nervous system and has been doing so for centuries all around the world. The popularity and longevity of this mood-affecting substance says a lot about the power and effectiveness of caffeine. But how does it actually work?

The long explanation involves a lot of brain chemicals and receptors. The short answer is that caffeine supercharges your brain and nervous system. It supports your naturally stimulating chemicals, which helps you stay alert and feeling better about the day.

Make sure to manage your caffeine intake so it doesn’t overstimulate anxieties or throw your sleep schedule out of whack. You can find caffeine in coffee, green and black tea, and chocolate.

Dark Chocolate, Lighter Moods

Reaching for chocolate when you feel down is natural. That’s because it’s the king of mood foods. And turning to dark chocolate has well-studied mood benefits, and is much better for you than milk chocolate.

The more cacao (or cocoa) in the chocolate, the more mood-supporting compounds you’ll find. Anandamide is one. This fatty acid acts as a neurotransmitter that can affect mood. Another, phenylethylamine, is an organic compound that acts like a mood-supporting brain and nervous system chemical.

Be careful with this semi-sweet treat. You’ll still get sugar and lots of fat. But darker chocolate (the higher the percent of cacao or cocoa, the darker the product) has a better balance of beneficial and unhealthy components.

Nutrients and Mood: Other Emerging Compounds

Researchers are constantly evaluating new connections between specific nutrients and mood. They’re picking out different plant compounds found in the diet and throughout world history to explore how they support a healthy, normal mood.

Here’s just a few compounds that have been around for a long time, but have new, emerging research about mood maintenance:

  • Saffron: a vibrant spice made from the saffron crocus flower.
  • Ashwagandha: an important herb used as an herbal preparation in India for thousands of years.
  • Lemon Balm: a common herb in the mint family.

Feed Your Mood

Take charge of your temperament. Pack your diet with foods containing these mood-supporting nutrients. And see how diet decisions can do more than stave off the hanger monster. If you struggle fitting these nutrients in your meals, supplementation is a good alternative—especially for those who may have dietary restraints. Whether through a meal or supplementation, it’s time to give “eating your feelings” a new meaning.

deficiencies

deficiencies

You’ve heard it before: you can get all the nutrients you need from the food you eat. Well, maybe you can. It’s certainly possible. But it’s unlikely.

We all know that vitamin supplements are no substitute for a healthy diet. But nobody is a perfectly healthy eater. It’s hard to get everything you need if you’re ill, a picky eater, dieting, or have food allergies. For those on restricted diets it can be particularly challenging.

Research has shown that deficiencies also vary by age, gender, or ethnicity. And deficiency may soar to nearly one third of certain population groups. In addition, many people are too busy to take the time to eat well or cook at home.

Luckily, there’s something you can do to help prevent deficiency. New research shows daily multivitamin/mineral supplements may be a nutritional insurance plan.

A new study in the journal Nutrients analyzes data from 10,698 adults age 19 years and older. The data comes from the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Surveys (NHANES). This provided reliable 24-hour dietary interviews—including the use of dietary supplements. An in-person health examination also collected blood samples to analyze markers of nutritional status.

They found the daily use of multivitamin/mineral supplements helped prevent shortfalls in important nutrients necessary to support overall health. There were a few exceptions: calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. But those are still important nutrients everyone needs to get enough of.

“Regrettably, there appears to be a great tenacity to old ways of thinking, e.g., you can get all the nutrition you need if you just eat a healthy, balanced diet—and then ignoring how most people actually eat and what they actually require,” lead author Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD said. “… Also, as our understanding about higher nutrient requirements of optimal health and wellness grows, particularly among older adults, it is clear that it can be quite difficult to achieve these intakes of selected nutrients from commonly available food choices.”

Now when someone says, “you can get everything you need from your diet,” you can point them to this study.

Why Do I Need Nutritional Supplements?

Health Benefits of Nutritional Supplements

Blumberg JB, Frei BB, Fulgoni VL, Weaver CM, Zeisel SH. Impact of Frequency of Multi-Vitamin/Multi-Mineral Supplement Intake on Nutritional Adequacy and Nutrient Deficiencies in U.S. Adults. Nutrients. 2017;9(8)