PureInsight | March 30, 2008
Do you feel like kicking the cat? Or telling the boss to go to take a long walk off a short pier? Or
feel that it's getting harder and harder to get your act together each
day? If so, the solution may not be to reach for Prozac. Some
authorities claim the answer may be on your dinner plate. So how does
food affect our moods?
Dr. Churched Jeejeebhoy, a professor of medicine at the University of
Toronto, reports in The Medical Post that certain foods are often
associated with a feeling of happiness and an optimistic mood.
Jeejeebhoy cites studies from the department of psychology at the
University of Wales. Students were given a variety of breakfast
combinations. Researchers discovered that a breakfast low in calories,
carbohydrates, and fat, but high in fiber, gives a boost to happiness
and helps memory.
Jack Challen, a food expert, reports that people's moods have become
worse in recent years due to a combination of stress and junk foods. He
says this leads to irritability, impatience, anger, panic attacks,
fuzzy thinking, and addictive behavior that he labels the "pissy mood
But does science back up these claims? Researchers say that food intake
affects mood due to biochemical messengers in the brain called
neurotransmitters. These control mood, thoughts, and behaviors. We are
the most sensitive to serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Serotonin levels are increased by carbohydrates, which can cause a sense of well-being, but also drowsiness.
Dopamine and norepinephrine are responsible for alertness, increased
energy, and speedier reaction times. So if you feel sluggish, what you
need is a good source of protein, such as meat, chicken, fish,
[fermented] soy, nuts, eggs, and dairy products. All are rich in these
Tired at lunchtime? Add four ounces of protein to the noonday meal.
But remember, overeating, regardless of the amount of protein in a
meal, is a prime cause for drowsiness. That is why heads start to droop
after the Thanksgiving dinner as food-overload directs blood to the
stomach and away from the brain. Light meals that contain 300 to 500
calories are the right prescription for an alert mind.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood, particularly salmon, shrimp, and
lobster, along with walnuts may also help to decrease depression.
Nutritionists say that drinking several glasses of water daily keeps
people well hydrated and combats moodiness. So be careful on an
up-and-down day to limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as they're both
diuretics causing urinary frequency and dehydration. Some also tout the
beneficial and relaxing effects of an alcoholic drink at day's end.
One clear message is to limit sugar intake. Foods high in sugar are bad
mood foods. They provide a short temporary lift in mood, but an hour
later "sugar blues" follows the "sugar highs." This means shunning
snacks and packaged foods usually loaded with sugar.
Still feel that you want to kick the cat? Before you toss in the towel
and reach for Prozac, try a little chocolate which contains over 300
compounds that have an effect on mood.
Chocolate has been used for centuries for health-inducing purposes. The
Aztecs concocted a frothy, chocolate beverage that was believed to
impart vitality and wisdom. It's been reported that Casanova ate
chocolate before each of his many sexual escapades. Maybe this helped
Casanova. But what about his partners? A study done several years ago
showed that more than 50 percent of women surveyed preferred chocolate
to sexual activity!
Today, due to the stress of modern society, too many people reach for
anti-depressant drugs, which are associated with side effects. It makes
much more sense to first try changes in lifestyle. A healthy diet is a
good start. And we know that daily exercise increases the body's supply
of endorphins, a morphine-like substance that makes the sky look bluer.
Try these measures. Even the cat will be pleased with less of that foul mood in the home.