• Eating for a Better Mood
    The next time you feel blue or irritable, you may want to take a look at what’s in your fridge. Researchers who study the food-mood connection have found that certain vitamins and other compounds in food can change brain chemistry. Foods influence the activity of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that convey information from one neuron to the next. Anything that affects these chemical messengers affects your mood—making food a pretty powerful "drug" when it comes to how you feel and act.
    For example, several studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids may be effective at combating depression. One study found that a group of pregnant women taking 3.4 grams of omega-3s per day had significantly fewer depressive symptoms than those taking a placebo. And a review of 10 clinical trials showed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms among subjects taking omega-3s. The best food sources are fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, and herring. You may also want to consider taking a daily fish-oil supplement.
    Three B vitamins—B-6, B-12 and folic acid—have been studied for their role in mood regulation. Some studies show that people with low blood levels of folic acid have higher rates of depression.
    Foods rich in folic acid (which is called folate when it’s found naturally in food) include leafy green vegetables, sunflower seeds, soybeans, beets, and oranges. Multivitamins typically contain 400 micrograms of folic acid, which is generally thought to be enough to keep your body sufficiently stoked. (Pregnant women require more.)
    Vitamin D plays a role in reducing the risk of osteoporosis, various cancers, and autoimmune diseases. Recent research indicates that it also may help alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD). More than 10 million Americans are thought to suffer from SAD, which leaves them feeling anxious, fatigued and blue during the dark days of winter. Scientists believe that SAD may be due in part to low body stores of vitamin D, which is caused by the shortened days and limited sunlight of winter. (Why? Because our bodies manufacture vitamin D when exposed to the sun.)
    Unlike omega-3 fats and folic acid, vitamin D is hard to come by in food form, so I usually recommend supplements. Most multivitamins contain 400 IU of vitamin D, but some experts feel that we should be getting at least 1,000 IU per day. If you can’t find a multivitamin that contains enough D, you can always take a separate supplement. Check labels to make sure you get the most potent form of the vitamin, which is D-3 or cholecalciferol.
    A carbohydrate overhaul is another way to help banish the blues. Cut back on sugar and other refined carbs. Sugar-rich foods (soda, candy, cookies, cake and fruit juice) and refined carbs (white-flour bread, bagels and crackers) are digested and absorbed very quickly by your body. This leads to a short-lived blood-sugar high, followed by a tumble that may leave you irritable, tired and shaky.
    On the other hand, high-quality carbohydrates that are metabolized slowly result in stable blood-sugar levels and fewer mood swings. The best carbs are ones that contain lots of soluble fiber, such as oats, barley, lentils, beans and sweet potatoes.
    You can even satisfy your sweet tooth without crashing by choosing fruit for dessert or as a snack. (Try apples, pears, oranges, sweet cherries, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple and blackberries.)
    Lastly, when you eat has as much of an impact on your mood as what you eat. If you routinely go for long stretches between meals, rethink your schedule and plan ahead accordingly.
    Feel-good foods
    Beans (rich in soluble fiber and folate)
    Wild salmon (rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin D)
    Skim milk (fortified with vitamin D)
    Blackberries (rich in soluble fiber and folate)
    Happy meals
    A hungry brain is an unhappy brain. Try eating every four to five hours and see how much better you feel. Here’s a one-day meal plan that’s brimming with good-mood foods.
    Breakfast: Scramble one or two omega-3 fortified eggs (in nonstick cooking spray) and stuff into a small whole-grain tortilla. Add 1/4 cup black beans, 2 Tbsp reduced-fat cheese, and a dollop of salsa for a breakfast burrito.
    Lunch: Enjoy a wild-salmon salad over greens: Fresh or canned wild salmon mashed with reduced-fat mayo, Dijon mustard, minced onion and black pepper to taste. Serve over leafy greens drizzled with a low-calorie vinaigrette.
    Dinner: Pick up your mood at the end of the day with a salad and turkey-bean chili over brown rice.
    Snack options: (Have one or two each day.) Try 6-8 ounces plain nonfat yogurt with a scoop of strawberries; 1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts; 1 sliced apple with 1 level Tbsp peanut butter; 1 cup boiled soybeans in the pod; or sliced pepper with 1/4 cup hummus.
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