PHOENIX -- When it comes to calming yourself (or somebody else) and keeping up a positive mood, certain foods can help.
"Food really can change the way we feel," explained Dr. Asa Andrew. But it's not just about food. It's about lifestyle, too.
"Lifefstyle choices matter -- more than anything," he said. "Eighty percent of the health challenges we face today -- right now -- are diet and lifestyle related."
Back to the food and how it can affect your brain chemistry. Protein is key to lifting dopamine levels.
Dopamine, known as the "feel good" neurotransmitter, is one of the four main chemicals that affect our moods. The other three are GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), serotonin, a deficiency of which is often associated with depression, and acetylcholine.
There are some things you can do -- and eat -- to support healthful levels of dopamine.
First, consider going organic.
"Organic is best, but you don't have to do it that way," Dr. Asa said.
You want to eat protein-rich foods, including lean red meat, fish and whole eggs, Yes, whole eggs.
"There are components in the egg yolk that are really important for raising your dopamine levels," he said. "Here's the key -- always, with whatever you're eating, whatever you're doing -- you want to eat foods in the way they're originally designed."
According to Dr. Asa, the yolk is actually the best part of the egg and quite healthful in moderation.
Chocolate is good, too, but not all chocolates are created equal. You want dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 75 percent or more
Exercise is also essential -- 30 minutes a day four to five days a week. It really doesn't matter what you do, Dr. Asa, just get your body moving doing something you enjoy.
"If you'll just do something, get your body moving. Movement is what it's all about," he said.
If you're one of those people who can't live without your caffeine, you might want to rethink that. Too much caffeine lowers dopamine levels. Also, consider a vitamin B6 supplement. Dr. Asa said pyridoxal-5'-phosphate -- just remember P5p-- is the version you want.
As always, you should consult your doctor before doing anything, especially if you're taking medication. The last thing want is a drug interaction.
Known as America's Health and Lifestyle Coach®, Asa Andrew, MD, is a national best-selling author, radio and TV host, and founder of Diagnosis HOPE, a nonprofit dedicated to health education and supporting the uninsured. For more information visit www.DrAsa.com.