2 Handfuls of cashews is the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of prozac.

2 handfuls of cashews are the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac. Inside you, the essential amino acid L-tryptophan is broken down into anxiety-reducing, snooze-inducing niacin. Even more important, tryptophan is also made into serotonin, one of your body’s most important neurotransmitters. Serotonin gives a feeling of well-being and mellowness, or as the Australians would say, “no worries.” This is such a profound effect that Prozac, Paxil and similar antidepressants usually either mimic serotonin or artificially keep the body’s own serotonin levels high. You can do the same thing with your food. And no one can tell us that beans, peas, cheese, nuts and wheat germ are toxic if you eat a lot of them!

One of my co-workers told me today that someone she knew told her that two handfuls a day of cashews will act on one’s brain chemistry in the very same way that antidepressant medication will; which is to say, it will allow you to feel, well, less depressed.

I was more than intrigued by this juicy tidbit of information; I was amazed, stunned, giddy and almost euphoric. For I love almost nothing better than a natural alternative to medication, any type of medication, and, although not clinically depressed myself, I do know it helps to have healthy foods around which can not only fill up one’s belly but also increase mental health. What a boon! So I did a little research, and, voila–information is a beautiful thing.

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As it turns out, cashews contain niacin and tryptophan, and, according to some, two handfuls of cashews contain a “therapeutic amount” of tryptophan, enough to alter and elevate your mood. The real measurement, apparently, is three and a half ounces of cashews, about a one-half cup, which provides approximately 470 mg of tryptophan. (http://www.surfingman10.org/niacin.html)

One drawback of nuts is that they are high in fat, particularly cashews. So if you’re going for weight loss, eating these by the cartful is not healthy for you either. Everything, they say, is better in moderation though. Bearing that in mind, you may find the uplifting effects of cashews are worth the calories and will just forgo that ice cream sandwich or the beer later on.

Many health food stores sell cashew, almond and sunflower butter as well as peanut butter. While they are ridiculously expensive, they can also last much, much longer as they are quite rich and intense – this is another great way to get those tryptophan-laden cashews into your diet.

There is no inherent judgment implied here with regard to antidepressants; in fact, many people I know personally and love very much are much, much happier and more fully functional people with their prescriptions responsibly prescribed for them by doctors they trust completely. Yet having natural options is wonderful as well; we could all use a little bit of nature’s remedy every now and then.

Also, since cashews are so incredibly delicious and free of processed sugar and preservatives, what a wonderful thing to have on hand to snack on here and there, and possibly feel like smiling afterwards.

For more on this, please see the following website: http://www.doctoryourself.com/depression.html

Aimee Boyle is a special education teacher, mother, wife and dog and cat lover. She is also a writer, a singer-songwriter and housecleaner on the shoreline of CT. She is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.

Women’s health and wellness