Mood-boosting foods: Tips to jump-start your body and your brain

If you’re determined to eat right to lose weight or improve your health, the foods you choose could also make you happier. We’ve all heard the old adage “You are what you eat,” and the importance of eating for physical health. But did you know that at the same time you could also be eating to improve your mental sharpness, energy and inner peace?

“The connection between food and mood has long been known, but we’ve come a long way in understanding how new foods can speed the process of helping you feel better by eating right. There are simple ways to tweak your diet that can have profound effects on how good you feel and how consistent your mood is, even while you lose weight and improve health,” says registered dietician, Elizabeth Somer, author of the book, “Eat Your Way to Happiness.” (Harlequin 2009) Somer offers the following ways to eat your way to a newer, happier you:

Make breakfast a natural high: Even a four-hour lag between meals leaves some people feeling shaky and grumpy because they’re essentially running on fumes. This only gives rise to cravings for foods that are bad for you. Restock your fuel stores in the morning with healthy foods, and your body, mind and energy will repay you throughout the day. Use the 1-2-3 rule to create an energy-building combination: No. 1, eat at least one serving of high-fiber carbs such as 100 percent whole grain cereal or bread; No. 2, eat two servings of fruits and veggies, such as a banana and vegetable juice; and No. 3, add a third, protein-rich food such as a whole egg, lean meat, or fat-free or low fat milk.


Embrace the “good” fats: You may have heard about the importance of incorporating good fats such as omega-3s into your diet. However, all omega-3s are not created equal and offer different health benefits. For example, the form of omega-3 found in flaxseeds and walnuts (ALA omega-3) helps lower your heart disease risk, but does not offer the brain-boosting benefits of DHA omega-3, which helps you feel great, think fast and stay mentally sharp. The more DHA omega-3 you eat, the more it is incorporated into brain cells, the more flexible your brain cell membranes become, the better you think, the more you remember and the happier you are.

Almost 97 percent of the omega-3s in the brain are DHA, which is why this fat is so important in lowering the risk of depression and dementia. Yet, most Americans don’t get enough of this nutrient. Salmon, herring, lake trout, anchovies and sardines are good dietary sources of DHA. But if you’re vegetarian, don’t like fish or are concerned about mercury levels in seafood, you can also find many foods, beverages and supplements in grocery and drug stores that are made with sustainable, algae-based DHA. Look for products bearing life’sDHA on the label, such as Mission Life Balance Flour Tortillas, Silk Soymilk Plus DHA, or Walmart Spring Valley Fish-Free Algal-900 DHA supplements.

Choose quality carbs: Seratonin, the nerve chemical, is a major force in mood and appetite. It turns cravings on and off for sweets and starches, helps regulate mood, controls pain tolerance affecting thinking and memory, and even determines whether we sleep well. However, serotonin levels rise with the right food choices. While all carbs will boost your mood, quality carbs in whole grains and colorful starchy veggies like sweet potatoes will give you sustained energy and a mood high without the extra calories. Keep hunger at bay by eating small snacks at even intervals throughout the day. Examples of quality carb snacks: five graham crackers, 75 whole-grain thin pretzel sticks or four cups of air-popped popcorn (salted lightly).

Eat right at night: If you start the day with the right foods, be sure to end it with the right foods. How well you sleep has a huge impact on your mood, energy level and weight. The worse you feel, the more likely you’ll eat – and you’ll eat all the wrong things, since fatigue and blues dissolve your resolve to take care of yourself. It takes your system hours to digest a large meal, making it difficult to completely relax into a deep sleep. Keep the evening meal light and low-fat and eat no less than three hours before bedtime, and you’re more likely to sleep like a baby all night. And, if you’re determined to lose weight, add some exercise every day and you will fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and sleep longer than if you were a couch potato.

By following these simple tips, you’ll not only feel better and more energized, but your mood will lift and you’ll be a newer, happier you.

By ARAcontent


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