Mood Foods Can Help Lift Your Spirits

You know food fuels your body, but did you know it also fuels your mood?

What you put into your body can directly affect your stress and energy levels, even help relieve depression, registered dietician Keri Glassman said on The Early Show Tuesday.

In general, she notes, eating consistently throughout the day is going to make you feel better all around. Small meals every four hours help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide more sustained energy. Also, because exercise helps your body metabolize glucose, it also stabilizes blood sugar.

But Glassman says some specific foods can help promote "good moods" -- and the impact can be relatively immediate.

FIGHT STRESS; FEEL CALM AND RELAXED

Oatmeal: The carbs in oatmeal trigger the release of serotonin, a hormone that relaxes you.

Avocado: The monosaturated fats in avocados help keep the receptors in your brain sensitive to serotonin. As a bonus, these same fats will help lower blood pressure over time, another key to feeling relaxed!

Milk: Whey protein has been shown to decrease anxiety and frustration. Although all dairy products have whey protein, milk will give you the biggest shot of it right away.

BOOST BRAIN POWER

Whole Grains: The brain depends on glucose -- the most basic form of sugar -- to function. Whole grains provide your brain with a steady steam of glucose. Refined and processed sugars, like the ones in packaged cookies or white bread, also provide glucose, but they break down very quickly in your body, causing blood sugar to spike. Whole grains break down slowly, providing that steady stream. Researchers have found that eating whole grains at breakfast can keep blood sugar stable for up to 10 hours -- improving alertness, concentration, and memory.

Omega-3s: Seems as if we can't say enough good things about Omega-3 fatty acids! These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. Any food similar to salmon or walnuts is great brain food.

Eggs: This one is a long-term effect; eggs have been linked to memory and recall in some studies. People who eat eggs regularly have been shown to have better memories than those who don't. But again, don't expect to eat eggs while studying for a test and then remember everything the next day! This one takes some time to affect your brain power.

GET ENERGIZED

Water: This is probably the most important thing you can consume to give you energy. Water is essential to all body functions, especially the conversion of food into energy.

Pineapple: This fruit is rich in manganese and thiamin, which help metabolize carbs, and as we know, carbs are used for energy.

Almonds: These little guys are like energy pellets, rich in magnesium, which again helps make the conversion of energy in your body more efficient.

ALLEVIATE DEPRESSION

Folic Acid: Many of us associate folic acid with pregnant women, but this nutrient has another important function: It helps maintain normal levels of serotonin in the brain. (again, serotonin is the hormone that makes you feel happy and relaxed) Foods high in folic acid include fortified whole-grain cereals, lentils, and spinach.

Chocolate: This sweet treat has a mild, temporary effect on your mood. In part, it's an emotional response. However, chocolate contains some caffeine, which acts as a stimulant, and the food's sugars and other compounds trigger the release of serotonin and endorphin.

BAD BEHAVIORS CAN LEAD TO BAD MOODS

Caffeine: Moderate consumption is OK (150-200mg), but too much can make you nauseous and interfere with sleep.

Alcohol: A drink or two is fine and may even have health benefits, but too much can mess with your sleep cycle (making you tired!).

High Sugar Foods: Lead to quick rush, followed by a crash, which leads to an energy dip.

Saturated Fat: It's digested very slowly and diverts blood from the brain to the stomach, which can put you in a fog.

Big Portions: They take longer to digest and take blood from brain and muscles, making you tired and lethargic.
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