B Positive: These vitamins can help put a smile on your face

Feeling a little blue? You might be having an off day — with me, it’s “rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Or perhaps you are really experiencing depression. What you might not realize is that what you’re eating — or not eating — can play a part in how you feel.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the relationship between B vitamins and depression in older adults. The study did not prove that B vitamins themselves can actually protect against depression, but indicated that adequate consumption of vitamins B6 and B12 can help decrease the risk of developing depression as we age.

How much do we need? The recommended dietary allowance for B12 is 2.4mcg a day, and the recommended intake for B6 is 1.4mg a day. For most of us, these amounts are not hard to get as long as you follow a well-balanced diet.

Which foods, specifically, should you eat? Vitamin B6 is found in liver, fatty fish, raw red and green peppers, cod, turkey, hazel nuts, peanuts, cashews, potato, chicken, beef, and pork, wheat bran, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin B12 is found in yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, beef, tuna, haddock, trout, salmon, fortified breakfast cereals, clams, and liver.
What does that mean, day to day? For one thing, it’s a reminder of what a nutritional powerhouse breakfast can be: low-fat yogurt with a fortified high fiber cereal, for instance, or a Sunday morning omelet that includes delicious red and green peppers. Make sure that salmon or some other fatty fish is on the menu every few days. And don’t forget how important a snack can be —g rab some nuts or low-fat cheese with a piece of fruit.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for older adults to have difficulty absorbing the B12 that’s found naturally in foods. Hydrochloric acid, secreted in the stomach, helps absorb B12, but secretion of this acid decreases with age. Therefore, it’s recommended that older adults (and individuals who follow a vegan diet) talk with their doctors and/or registered dietitians about taking a B12 or multi-vitamin supplement daily.

Bottom line: If B6 and B12 might help decrease your risk for depression, I hope foods rich in these vitamins are on your plate today, and every day.

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