Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Good Mood Food

foods that improve mood

Turns out food fuels more than just your body; it feeds your mind too!

The June issue of Redbook Magazine features an article all about these mood foods, and I just couldn't wait to share it with my friends at work. I bring in articles every once in a while in hopes that someone other than me may find some goodness in them. Side note - my "real" job is as a director for mental health programs so you have to understand, we here in my little office enjoy learning about all things having to do with the mind. This time, though, something must have really hit, as I came to work the next morning to a kitchen stocked with all the foods we'd talked about the morning before. So I thought, "Hmmm, why not share the goodness with my beauty angels too?" - so I will.

According to Judith Wurtman, PhD, former Massachusettes Institute of technology research scientist and coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet, "What you eat can affect your mood and how well your brain works". Here's your guide to creating your own personal feel-good menu.

- less stress

oatmeal - a special carb; can have you grinning like you've popped a Valium. "When you eat a carbohydrate, your body sends an amino acid called tryptophan (also in turkey) into the brain to trigger the manufacture of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel tranquil and better able to cope," says Wurtman. Without carbs, your brain actually cannot produce serotonin, which may be why some dieters tend to get angry, tense, depressed after as little as two weeks of dieting. Wurtman suggests eating carbs that are rich in fiber (oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, beans) so your body absorbs them slowly and the serotonin flows steadily.

pistachios - a handful is all you need to tame stress; they contain antioxidants, fiber, and unsaturated fatty acids, which are all linked to lowering blood pressure in studies.

milk - got milk? (sorry - couldn't help it) "Whey, the protein in milk, has been shown to decrease anxiety and frustration," says Susan Kleiner, PhD, author of The Good Mood Diet; calcium in dairy has also been shown to calm muscles and help keep blood pressure in check; warm drinks are said to naturally soothe and digest faster than cold ones, so there may be something to that warm milk at night theory after all.

avocado - not only satisfying with its thick, creamy texture, but also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, both of which help to lower blood pressure; monounsaturated fat also helps keep receptors in the brain sensitive to mood-boosting serotonin; Redbook recommends 1/2 an avocado a day so feel free to eat up.

wine - Kleiner says indulging in a drink or two with your dinner offers disease-fighting antioxidants and "acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant; it initally relaxes us and lowers blood pressure". Just don't overindulge. Too much depresseing of the CNS can leave you feeling - um, depressed.


- thinking, mental strength

whole grain toast - feeds your inner Einstein; whole grains are digested slowly, boosting blood sugar and giving your brain a steady supply of glucose - its favorite fuel. Packaged and refined goodies, cookies, bread, etc provide glucose but "also break down much more rapidly leaving you with that spike then crash feeling, which leads to impaired brain functions such as poorer judgment, memory and analytical abilities," says Ewan McNay, PhD, Asst Professor of Neuroendocrinology at Yale School of Medicine. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have noted that eating whole grains at breakfast can keep blood sugar stable for up to 10 hours - improving alertness, concentration and memory.

turkey - protein makes you a lean, mean thinking machine. Tukey contains tyrosine, an amino acid that helps your brain produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and norepinephrine. Wurtman offers that activating those chemicals assists your brain to work faster and be more effective at handling complex mental problems; animal proteins such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry and lean meats pack the smartest punch because they also contain the other seven essential amino acids the body needs for good health (unlike vegetable proteins like beans and tofu).

coffee - my best friend in the morning; researchers from Innsbruck Medical University in Austria found that 100 mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) improved subjects' reaction times and working memory (what you'd use to recall a phone number you'd just found in a phone book for instance). Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and acts on brain chemicals in a way that improves memory, attention and concentration; it can actually raise your score on an IQ test. it may also give your workout a boost; of course moderation is key (can make you feel jittery) and personal limits vary.

eggs - no more egg-whites only! Egg yolks are rich in choline, a fat-like B-complex vitamin, and in chemical compunds called phospholipids - both of which are linked to recall. "Choline and phospholipids have been shown to enhance memory in college-age men," says Kleiner. (Think about it: who boozes it up more than college-age men - so that's saying a lot - no hate, no hate, college-age friends o' mine). So, if you don't have to worry about high cholesterol, then it's okay to eat your eggs. (one a day is what they recommended)

- energize

water - really? yes! It is estimated that between one and two-thirds of the population is dehydrated by two to four cups of water at any given time. Since we need water for every function in the body - like converting food into energy - even a minor shortage can negatively affect us. "With just a 1% to 2% loss of body weight in fluid, you'll feel fatigued, you might get a headache, and you won't think clearly or remember as much," says Kleiner, who authored a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association on the importance of hydration. The remedy: Get five to six (8-oz) cups of agua a day, and eat lots of fruit and vegetables, which are naturally water-packed.

pineapple - like all carbohydrates, pineapple breaks down quickly into sugar to give you an energy boost. But unlike simple carbs such as plain bagels or white rice, pineapples pack enough fiber -- nearly 10 percent of your daily value (DV) -- and other nutrients to slow down its digestion and prevent the dreaded post-carb crash. What's more, pineapple is a great source of the mineral manganese and the B-vitamin thiamin, both of which help your body convert calories into energy. Just one cup of pineapple gives you 128% of the DV for manganese.

almonds - this little nut is turning out to be quite the gem; I've seen article after article on the benefits to health from eating almonds. Consider them energy pellets. Not only do almonds contain healthy fat and lots of fiber but they're also packed with magnesium, which helps to convert carbs, protein, and fat into energy. Hey, that was all I needed to know to be sold - convert fat to energy - I'm all there, baby! A 1/4 cup of almonds provides 25% of the 320 mg women need daily.

- happiness

chocolate - oh well, now there's a surprise - not! Yes, the euphoria you feel when you eat it is real. Chocolate has a mild temporary stimulating effect owing to the emotional response it evokes (think velvety mouth-feel, decadent aroma, and all the good memories attached to it) as well as the bit of caffeine it has. Add to that its sugar content, which triggers the feel-good hormone serotonin, and the fat and phenylethylamine it contains, which lead to endorphin release, and it's no wonder experts say this sweet treat leads to "ultimate brain happiness." And just a square or so of dark chocolate a day can boost your health too, lowering both your blood pressure and your risk of stroke.

walnuts - Turn to these nuts when you're feeling blue. The secret is in their high content of omega-3 essential fatty acids. In one study, people with lower levels of omega-3 in their blood were more likely to report symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook, whereas people with higher levels tended to be more agreeable. Meanwhile, an animal study at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA, showed that omega-3 fatty acids and uridine -- two substances that occur naturally in many foods, including walnuts and fish -- may boost communication among neurons in key areas of the brain. The bottom line: Effects of omega-3s and uridine "were indistinguishable from standard antidepressant medications," says study author William Carlezon, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. Just a 1/4 cup of walnuts gives you nearly 95% of the DV of omega-3s. (You know, as a scientist in the field of mental health, I cringe when I read these kinds of things as folks should not bolt from their medications after reading these articles - speak with your doctors please before doing anything of the sort; but I do have to accept that some of what we're finding in these areas is really at the least - though provoking - and at the most - perhaps valid.)

spinach - so veggies aren't necessarily the first thing you crave when you're in a funk. Stick with this: Spinach is rich in folate (or vitamin B9), which helps maintain normal levels of mood-boosting serotonin. A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that people who consumed the least folate were a whopping 67% more likely to suffer from depression than those who took in the most. Spinach is one of the best sources of folate there is, with 262 micrograms per cup. The recommended dietary allowance of folate is 400 micrograms daily, so add other folate-rich foods like asparagus, broccoli, and beans to your diet too.

source: Redbook

1 comment:

  1. Haha! No wonder I'm always a ball of stress...I don't like any of the items that help to control it. Man, I'm going to have to suck it up and start consuming that food.


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