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Mood-Boosting Foods

Decades ago, the idea that there was a link between food and the mind was a preposterous one to scientists. In recent years, however, an abundance of research has emerged to show that there is, in fact, a connection between the two. So, if you're feeling a little down in the dumps and you're thinking of eating your troubles away, give it a shot! Just be sure you're eating foods that can actually help lift your spirits.

When you're sad

  • As the saying goes, "This, too, shall pass." Until then, steer clear of the chocolate ice cream and consider instead a healthier snack - one that is low in fat, low in protein, and high in carbohydrates. Try, for example, a toasted English muffin with blueberry jam. When high-carb foods aren't bogged down with protein or fat, they allow amino acid called tryptophan to flood your brain and turn into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is known to boost mood and curb cravings.

  • According to Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Food & Mood, snacks like a piece of whole wheat bread with honey or a bowl of popcorn are healthy choices, too. Just skip the high-protein foods like cheese, chicken, and turkey because they suppress serotonin.

  • Eat fish. Evidence suggests that to the omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna may help ease depressive symptoms. They are believed to help the brain receptors with serotonin uptake. One study found that people with bipolar disorder (manic depression) who started eating more fish began to see a more consistent balance in their moods. Another showed that eating fish twice a week was associated with a lower risk of depression and suicide. If you're concerned about mercury, stick to shrimp, wild Pacific salmon, and other types of fish that contain omega-3s but are low in mercury. And if you're not a fan of fish, talk to your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement.

When you're irritable

  • Step away from the coffee! Caffeine is a stimulant for some people, but it may make others irritable. In addition, sugar, which is normally soothing, can actually cause depression. If you find yourself snapping at your husband or yelling like a mad woman at the guy who cut you off on the freeway, consider cutting caffeine and sugar from your diet for a good two weeks. Once you've calmed down, re-introduce them to your diet. If you become irritable all over again, consider giving up coffee for good.

When you're all out of energy

  • While caffeine can cause exasperation, there's a reason why there is a Starbucks on every corner in many cities: Caffeine can also work wonders for your energy levels. Within a half an hour of drinking a cup of coffee, your nervous system speeds up and you feel more alert. Your reaction time is faster, and you're even better at concentrating. Caffeine hinders the production of a nerve chemical called adenosine that blocks serotonin, which gives you a rush of energy. But be careful not to drink too much coffee. You don't want to get so much of a caffeine buzz that you can't think clearly. Limit yourself to one to three 5-ounce cups of coffee per day, and don't drink it or other caffeinated beverages before bed.

  • If you find yourself exhausted in the middle of the day, or you're just feeling lethargic in general, you may not be getting enough iron in your diet. While beans, grains and vegetables are good for you, they do not provide a very good source of iron. According to the National Academy of Sciences, vegetarians only benefit from about 10 percent of the iron in the foods they eat, while a diet that incorporates lean meat, poultry and seafood will meet the requirement of 18 percent. Animal protein contains a special form of iron called heme, which your body is able to absorb better than the iron in plants.

  • You can also get more iron from foods like shrimp, lean beef, lamb, and fish. If you're a vegetarian, add foods to your diet that are high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, juice, melons, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, and dark green leafy vegetables. Adding a multi-vitamin with iron in it can be helpful, too.

  • Low fluid intake is another common cause of fatigue that many people don't think about, so be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

In addition to eating mood-boosting foods, stay active. Exercise is acknowledged by physicians everywhere as a good treatment for lifting spirits. An active lifestyle will help give you an overall feeling of well-being, accomplishment, and good health.

 


 

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