Friday, January 24, 2014

Choose Good-for-you Mood-elevating Food and Beverages by Roz Denny Fox


Everyone who has worked an 8 to 5 job has probably endured the three o’clock crash. Office vending machines often offer sugary snacks that only create a short-term energy boost. Really the blood-sugar fall that comes after not only makes you feel draggy, but can cause irritability, depression, and other mood swings that negatively affect your performance. Drew Ramsey, MD, co-author of The Happiness Diet maintains that food choices we make every day influence the brain’s ability to grow and heal. Dr. Ramsey cites a large study done for Harvard School of Public Health that found women who drink 2 cups of coffee regularly had a 15% lower risk of depression than those who didn’t drink any coffee. The risk decreased by 20% when they drank 4 cups a day. He says it’s because caffeine triggers a release of dopamine in the brain which sharpens, focuses and improves your outlook. But don’t drink coffee to the point of jitters. And space your cups of coffee throughout the day.

So what makes us happier than having a satisfying fatty snack? Not much claims Mary Morreale, MD and psychiatrist at Wayne State University. Fat digests slowly and calms the blood sugar. Of course not all fats are created equal. Studies that compared mood disorders in several countries found that where residents consumed 3 seafood meals per week and took in high omega-3 fatty acids had much lower rates of depression and other emotional disorders than residents who ate lower levels of omega-3 foods. These fats are said to help the function in areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotion. If you’re a meat-eater, choose grass-fed beef, chicken and pork over corn-fed. Or make your afternoon snack half an avocado or a quarter cup of walnuts.

Judith Wurtman, PhD, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet and former director of MIT’s Clinical Research Center in Women’s Health thinks carbs are crucial. She says the 3 or 4 o’clock mood slump can be warded off with ¾ cup of Cheerios. Because that’s a small caloric price to pay for feeling good. Green tea plus a caramel rice cracker offers similar results as do a few baby carrots dipped in hummus. Susan Bowerman, RD purports that carrots to humans are like a rawhide bone to a dog. Chewing is a stress reliever. And the crunch of carrots also satisfies a sweet craving, while hummus is salty and provides carbs, all equaling a hit of afternoon happiness. Susan, who is the assistant director of UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition believes a bliss trip needs tryptophan. While it used to be that people thought tryptophan made you sleepy, new studies show it may more likely be the key to calm and happiness. Serotonin, a necessary amino acid that the body can’t produce on its own, needs tryptophan. Poultry, beef, eggs and nuts supply some. She suggests having turkey in a whole wheat wrap, or a slice of whole grain toast, or a few graham crackers midday which will cause the body to release insulin and in turn boost the amount of tryptophan.

Back to Dr. Ramsey of the Happiness Diet—he says spinach in your salad will give your lunch a brain-friendly shot. By trading romaine lettuce for spinach which gives more B vitamins, your afternoons will be freer of fuzzy-thinking. (Hey, I’m all for that)

The last bit of mood-enhancing data I found comes from Paul Bosland, PhD and horticulturalist at New Mexico State University. His studies have been in using spices to make you a nicer, less depressed person. Curcumin, a staple in Indian curries and present in turmeric has natural anti-depressant properties. Like serotonin and dopamine, adding turmeric to stir-fry, soup or chicken will give you a brighter outlook. As well he recommends liberal use of black pepper, preferably fresh-ground, plus chili peppers, both will release feel-good endorphin receptors in the mouth.

So, all of the above suggestions I think are easy changes to implement if they indeed lift the afternoon spirits, improve the mood, and help make a person happier. Can anyone give testimonials to these diet tips, or other easy ones you’d care to share?

23 comments:

  1. Hah! I needed this post, Roz, because I've been fighting to manage my cholesterol without going on a Statin drug. I saw my doctor who said I went down from 150 to 126 in the bad cholesterol and I need to get to 100... work work work! Especially since my husband loves to cook beef and there is a beef stew bubbling in my crock pot even as I speak! I'm trying very hard to eat healthier and I took note of the tips you shared. On a side note, my doctor also shared that take 400 mg of Vit. B2 a day significantly decreases the likelihood of a migraine which I'm all for since they attack me so often :) Thanks for the post and have a great weekend!

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    1. Thanks for the B2 info! Will pick some up today.

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  2. Karen, I, too, am trying to get off my statin drug for cholesterol that I've been on far too long. It's not easy. 100 seems impossible.

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  3. Great post Roz!! I can testify to the coffee thing for sure! I knew my eight-twelve cups a day were a good thing:) (Not exaggerating) My family has a history of depression-both sides, and I'm a writer-so it's something I take seriously and watch for-but NOPE no signs of it whatsoever lol:) Must be the coffee:)

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    1. Jen, one of the pediatricians I worked for really disliked putting kids on Ritalin. And so many docs were prescribing it willy nilly. He liked for hyperactive kids to drink one cup of coffee in the morning. So caffeine if used sparingly can calm, too.

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    2. What! Okay, my eight year old will have coffee starting Monday morning.

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  4. This is great info, Roz. Thanks for sharing your research!

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    1. Cindy, I like the sounds of The Happiness Diet.

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  5. Fantastic post, Roz! You've given us a really info-packed article. Yay for coffee! Nice to hear something good about it. ;-)
    Whole foods puts out a nice frozen leafy greens mix, (spinach, kale, collard greens,) that I've been using in smoothies. If you put enough fruit in, you don't even taste the "green" part.
    (All measurments are estimated and you can throw in and take out whatever you want to taste)
    1/2 cup frozen leafy green mix in a blender
    Coconut water to cover, blend well
    Add: fresh pineapple chunks
    dash of turmeric
    square or two of frozen ginger
    1/4 to 1/2 cup of frozen berries
    Buzz it up!
    Add more coconut water (or orange juice or lemonade) to thin it out if needed.
    if you are at work, you can pack most of the ingredients in a plastic bag and bring a Ninja or Magic Bullet (small, portable blenders,) to work and blend there for your 3 o'clock pick me up.
    Or, cover the leafy greens with some coffee, chocolate powder, dash of turmeric, some almond milk and ice, blend, and you've got all the happiness ingredients in a glass.

    Warm water with lemon is supposed to be good for too.

    Thanks for this post Roz. Now we can all go have another cup of coffee and feel good about it.

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    1. Shannon, if you use a magic bullet do you just use less of everything---say if you only are making an individual drink? I need more greens for sure. Are the ones you get organic?

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    2. Yes, and yes. Organic everything whenever possible. Frozen greens...(that's just laziness so you don't have to wash and cut them ;-), and eyeball it in the magic bullet container for one. Put the greens in first and blend with your liquid so it breaks down a little more, then add in whatever you'd like. I usually make it too thick and end up dumping it in the big blender and adding more liquid. There's a learning curve to figure out how thick you like your smoothies. :-)
      BTW, bought some organic carrots today and had them with lunch. Delicious! Thanks for the reminder.

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  6. Roz - what good information! I was born happy, so have no problem there, but do eat lots of spicy stuff and my blood is probably half Yorkshire Gold tea. I do need the afternoon brain boost, though, so love thinking about a turkey wrap and spinach, cheerios, and love, love hummus. I have a Lebanese sister-in-law who got me hooked. Thank you!

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    1. LOL, I was born happy too. I eat lots of spicy stuff and my blood is half diet dr. pepper.

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  7. I like hummus, too. Do you make it yourself, or do you buy it ready made? Are some brands better than others? A couple I've tried seem bitter to me.

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    1. We have Sabra hummus here. Do you? I like that. And they make a really spicy one.

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  8. My mom said Dr. Oz recommended turmeric, so she & my sister & I all started taking it. Each one of us slept SO much better for the next two weeks...and then went back to normal.

    It was like the turmeric's power had worn out.

    So now I'm saving the pills for next time I need to be REALLY well rested and figure I'll start taking them a week in advance!

    Anybody else tried turmeric?

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    1. Laurie, I've used curry but not turmeric. I've tried tryptophan pills to sleep, but they didn't work for me. I think my sleeplessness is too entrenched.

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  9. I'm very into this stuff, Roz. I love reading up on it and have subscribed to Prevention Magazine for years. Great info and post!

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  10. Thanks for this very interesting information, Roz. Brian got me to start drinking coffee a couple of years ago, but I don't know if I'm any happier than I was before. Coffee is supposed to also have some protective effects against Alzheimer's Disease, too.

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  11. Great information and so are the comments you received. We do not like spinach, but we love spicy food. I got that from my mother who put a hot pepper into almost anything. And black pepper is a must in our house as well. Every year, I try to grow a few hot peppers, but my plants don't like to grow. But we have some nice neighbors who share with us. We've never tried hummus. Wouldn't even know where to look for it. I did try tumeric, but it must be an aquired taste because our meal was aweful.

    My mom said I was always happy, that I even woke up happy. I still wake up happy, but my daughter is grumpy when she wakes up in the morning. My son is usually happy though when he wakes up.

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  12. This was a great blog and discussion about foods that can have a positive affect on our mood. I am very aware of mood and this information is wonderful. I plan to stop and buy some avocados, carrots and hummus on the way home from tomorrows meeting.

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  13. Thanks for the information: I could make a complete diet of avocados, black olives and nuts. I only drink coffee before noon so it won't disturb my sleep. I complained to my daughter that I can't turn off my mind at night, especially when stressed. She gave me Rescue Sleep Liquid Melts for those nights when I spend hours worrying. (Wish I could find that worry button and destroy it!) Haven't tried it yet, but it's nice to have someone concerned for me.

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  14. Thanks to all of you who posted after blogger went down for a while. I now have hummus, carrots and other good things in my fridge now. I think by and large writers are happy worriers. Is that possible? We are very attuned to the emotions of those around us. And a lot of writers I know have trouble sleeping. Probably those darned characters keeping us awake.

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