Friday, May 28, 2010

Food and Your Mood

Studies are being done all the time to determine the relationship between food and your brain. Are you feeling depressed after a night of partying? Is your child not doing well in school? Are you suffering from anxiety? It is time to fix your mental health with the best recommendation you could ask for, FOOD!


Chocolate really does make us happy! Consuming chocolate, specifically cocoa, stimulates the brain to produce opiates. These opiates dull pain and increase the feeling of well-being. Chocolate also contains anandamide, another compound that arouses the feeling of well-being, and other compounds that make this feeling last longer. To get the most out of your chocolate intake, just follow these tips and tricks:
1. Don't overdo it - limit yourself to no more than 3 ounces a day. We don't want to lose the happiness by gaining the weight! Try substituting chocolate for your other sweets and snacks to balance out the calories.
2. Choose dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 65% or higher - The higher the cocoa content, the more you benefit!
3. Incorporate a small amount of dark chocolate in a baked good - many people prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate, but don't give in! Try a healthy recipe to make your chocolate more desirable! Check out this recipe for Chocolate-Cherry Heart Smart Cookies:


Alcohol seems to be related to having a good time or even relaxing, but it is actually a powerful depressant, slowing the rate that neurological signals are received in the brain. This altered central nervous system also causes impaired judgment, slows heart rate, depresses breathing, slows reaction times, slows cognition, and causes regrettable unrestrained behavior. Alco! hol cons umption can also damage the quality of your sleep, leading to an even worse mood. Sleep is the body's restorative state. Therefore, studies have linked lack of sleep to increased tension and irritability. So if you have the urge to drink, keep it in small, slow doses (no more than one beer OR one glass of wine OR one shot of liquor every 1.5 hours). Also, try sipping, not gulping, allowing more time for the liver to breakdown the alcohol.


Although this isn’t a free pass to start loading up on cheesy pasta and buttery mashed potatoes, studies suggest that complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, could be great for your mood! Complex carbohydrates have shown to enhance serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical that produces positive feelings of happiness and promotes relaxation. Who doesn't want more of that?


We all love that cup of coffee, tea or soda in the morning to perk us up. This little perk of caffeine can even act as a slight anti-depressant but don’t over-do it. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety. If you love your coffee, try a lighter coffee with a reduced amount of caffeine. Or try something new! There are many herbal teas and sodas that have no caffeine in them at all!


Studies have also shown that blood levels low in either folate or vitamin B12 may be related to depression. These vitamins are believed to be used by the body to create serotonin. Don’t buy the supplements just yet; first try altering your diet. Foods rich in these vitamins include fortified whole-grain cereals, dark green, leafy veggies; low fat dairy and eggs; as well as beans, oatmeal, beets, broccoli, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oranges, shellfish, wild salmon, lean beef and cottage cheese.