How To Brighten Your Mood
You've been through a hard day at work, your children are driving you to distraction, you've had a tiff with your spouse, you're just tired-all these kinds of situations can take the wind out of your sails and temporarily bring you down. In moments like these, your first instinct may be to reach into your refrigerator or pantry for comfort. If you do, remember sugar-and fat laden "treats" like doughnuts and cookies will only deflate you later: There are a multitude of great-tasting foods that are equally as delicious and comforting yet still provide you with the nutrients you need every day. Some of these foods may even help lift you up out of your mood.
EAT TO CHEER UP
Food can be a day-brighter simply because we enjoy it. In fact, researchers are increasingly recognizing that pleasure plays a large role in governing appetite and guiding food choices. Eating foods that you enjoy provides a sense of "treating" or "rewarding" yourself-just what you need when life is wearing you down. On a more practical level, pausing from a busy or difficult day to ahve a nutritious bite to eat can simply provide you with a much-needed break. Nutritionists have come to agree that even less healthful indulgences like potato chips or chocolate can occasionally be allowed into your diet as long as they're eaten sparingly. The key is to eat a balanced and varied diet and to pay attention to when your mood tends to flag. If you notice that your spirits fall at certain times of day, plan meals and snacks accordingly, and try to eat a variety of foods so that the body maintains a proper balance of the chemicals that can influence mood. Some good mood-boosting choices include complex and carbohydrates like whole-wheat toast or a light pasta salad, and complete proteins, found in a glass of milk or half a turkey sandwich.
- Beans, lentils, peas
- Breads:whole-grain toast, bagel, and wheat cereal
- Fish:tuna, herring, mackerel, trout, and shrimp
- Pasta such as linguini
- Peanut butter abd sunflower seeds
- Sweets, eaten sparingly
Did You Know?
- An alcoholic drink may change your mood, but not for the better.
- Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the body and brain, causing anxiety and irritability.
- Low feelings may develop into a deeper form of depression.
How Food Affects Mood
In addition to providing solace and pleasure, food can brighten your day by providing various nutrients that have been shown to affect brain chemicals that influence mood. Foremost among these is serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps messages move throughout the nervous system. High levels of serotonin are associated with elevated mood, while low levels signal more subdued states. Eating foods whose nutrients boost the production of serotonin can help perk up a drab day. Some foods that may make a difference in your day include:
- Bread and Pasta Grain-based such as whole-wheat bread and pastas like linguini, macaroni, and spaghetti are rich in complex carbohydrates, which boost levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain. They also contain a number of B vitamins, which help the amino-acid-to-serotonin process take place.
- Fish Cold-water fish such as tuna, herring, and mackerel are also high in B vitamins like riboflavin and B12 that help trigger the production of serotonin. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish do the same thing, though the mechanism through which this occurs is still being studied.
- Milk As long as milk doesn't produce a reaction due to allergy or intolerance, tyrosine, the protein in it as well as in meats, dairy, and nuts, causes your body to release other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These are stimulating substances to the brain and can help perk you up by making you feel more alert and sharpening your thinking.
- Beans Foods such as beans, lentils, and peas not only contain plantbased protein, they are also rich in B vitamins, making them able to affect levels of a number of mood-boosting brain chemicals.
- Hot Wheat Cereal Beyond being high in complex carbohydrates, hot wheat cereals are rich in iron. Lack of iron in the diet, a common deficiency, can bring on the blahs by making you feel sluggish and unable to concentrate. Pouring on the milk also provides extra protein. If you prefer cold cereal, many ready-to-eat products are rich in complex carbohydrates, especially when made from whole grains.
Food For Thought
How can you indulge in "sinful" pleasures without going overboard or feeling guilty? Eat slowly. Foods high in carbohydrates and fat slow the release of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin. They also slow the signals of hunger satisfaction being sent to your brain. Try to eat only 1 treat in a sitting: Studies find you feel full faster when you eat fewer foods.