Monday, August 8, 2011

Soul Food

"Good food, good mood". You’ve seen this slogan so many times and you’ve probably thought it was just too cheesy! But I have news for you: it’s true! Half the time, we eat to satisfy a need that has nothing to do with hunger. Half the time, we eat just so we can feel a little bit better. So how come foods have that effect on us and which ones truly have that power?
The relationship between food and mood
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep and food intake. Sufficient amounts can promote good mood whereas low serotonin levels can cause insomnia, depression, food cravings and aggressive behavior.
Serotonin levels are related to diet. This neurotransmitter is produced in the brain from an amino-acid, tryptophan, vitamins B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid) as well as other nutrients. Hence, any foods rich in those nutrients can create a feeling of well being.

Which specific foods can boost your mood?

Carbohydrate-rich foods: Although serotonin's precursor is an amino-acid, carbohydrates can allow it to penetrate the brain at a higher percentage. This explains why we feel relaxed and sleepy after a pasta meal.

Omega 3 rich foods: It seems that this essential fatty acid increases serotonin receptors allowing its proper function. So the next time you don’t really feel well, have some fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Herring and Sardines), soybeans, flaxseed or walnuts.

Spinach, asparagus and broccoli: They are rich in vitamin B9 or folate which is essential for serotonin production as mentioned earlier. In fact, low levels of folate have been associated with depression. Plus, spinach seems to be rich in “antioxidants which protect delicate membranes in brain cells from free radicals that dampen the mood and drain energy”. It is also a good source of Magnesium which helps relax muscles.

Tea: It contains caffeine which leads to a more positive mood. However, you should limit yourself to one cup of tea as excess caffeine may lead to anxiousness, nervousness and mood swings.

Oysters: They are rich in magnesium and zinc, both affecting behavior and mood.

Cherries: they contain a hormone called melatonin which has been associated with sleep and mood regulation.

Oranges: there are claims that vitamin C can also play a role in mood modulation. More scientific research is needed though.

Chocolate: It’s no big surprise here! Chocolate is by far the best mood lifter, especially for the ladies! It provides your body with endorphin which soothes pain and influences temper. However, you should be careful! All chocolates are rich in calories and having too much can increase your weight. And that won’t make you very happy on the long term!
What else can you do to lift your spirit?

Have your favorite foods: when you’re feeling down, try to consume foods that you like as they will release beta-endorphins which, as I said before, are known to enhance the mood.
Exercise: just like chocolate, it releases endorphins. Besides, it helps you stay in shape. And what could be more positive than weight loss?!
You can always keep a journal where you write down everything you ate during the day to help you detect which foods are creating foul moods.

So there you go… Some foods can really make you a happier person. Nevertheless, they can only do it for a limited period of time and solving the problem is always the best way to go!



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