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Food for Mood
by Ashley Ball

We're not always in control of our mood and demeanor, and if you'd like an example, just ask those lazy Southerners.

The image of an indolent, porch-sitting American South persists to this day. But the outdated stereotype was caused by forces beyond Southerners' control: Until the mid-20th century, many of them were, not shiftless, but unknowingly anemic. Hookworms endemic to the region infected the unsuspecting natives, and the resulting symptoms made them speak and move slowly, appearing "lazy."

By Mouth, Three Times Daily
Surf recipes, buy ingredients, craft your mood — all on the Internet.
Get Energy with: Seafood, Pears
Get Memory with: Nuts, Green Leafy Vegetables
Lose Depression with: Pasta, Garlic
Lose Anxiety with: Honey, Cheerios
Watch Out for: Bacon, Alcohol (Memory-Killers)

If you've ever had a week when you feel tired and don't know why, or one where others commented on your failing memory, then you know that even now our moods fall prey to outside — or inside — influences. Fortunately, we can control one of the biggest culprits: the food we eat.

Today, nutritional scientists are finding that certain foods are fixes for less-than perfect moods. Use their knowledge to kill two birds with one legume: Eat well while designing the mood you want.

Below, an ingredient reference list from Dr. Jean Carper's Food — Your Miracle Medicine and our own picks for meals to make of them.

Protein-rich foods: Low-fat seafood, turkey breast, nonfat milk, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, coffee; boron-containing foods such as fruits, nuts, legumes,broccoli, apples, pears, peaches, grapes.

Why Protein?
Protein breaks down into amino acids when you digest it. The amino acid tyrosine increases the production of neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, all of which increase energy and alertness.

Why Boron?
There's no official recommended intake for boron, a trace mineral, but its positive effects on brain function have been widely noted; there's more activity in both brain hemispheres when adequate dietary boron is present.

The Lunch of Champions: Warm turkey breast with apple-pear-walnut compote, side of steamed broccoli, coffee.

Thiamin-containing foods: Wheat germ, bran, nuts, fortified cereal, meat; riboflavin-containing foods: almonds, fortified cereals, milk, liver; carotene-containing foods: dark green leafy vegetables, orange fruits and vegetables; zinc-rich foods: seafood, legumes, cereals, whole grains.

Why Thiamin?
Thiamin, or Vitamin B-1, is ideally stored in high concentration in the brain. Deficiencies of it can lead to brain damage.

Why Riboflavin?
Riboflavin, Vitamin B-2, is necessary for red blood cell formation, antibody production, cell respiration, and cell growth, and a deficiency thereof has been shown to cause slowed mental response.

Why Carotene?
Beta carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A, is an antioxidant and therefore is crucial for sharp memory. The brain generates more free radicals per gram of tissue than any other organ, so brain cells need extra antioxidant protection from toxins.

Why Zinc?
Zinc is one of the most prevalent trace elements in the brain, stored in the hippocampus (which has limbic connections and therefore affects brain function on a larger level.) It's essential for brain development and functioning; low zinc levels are associated with dementia and memory disturbance.

The Total Recall Dinner: Salmon with mustard and dill, sweet potato pancakes, spinach salad.

Beans, pasta, vegetables, cereal, bread, crackers, sweets; folic acid-containing food: spinach and other dark leafy greens, lima beans; selenium-containing foods: brazil nuts, canned light tuna, cooked oysters, sunflower seeds, puffed wheat cereal, swordfish or clams, garlic, chili peppers (which contain capsaicin.)

Why Folic Acid?
About one third of depressed patients are shown to have a diet deficient in folic acid. This deficiency leads to a low serotonin level in the brain. Doses of folic acid, a B vitamin, bring serotonin levels back up to normal.

Why Selenium?
Selenium's mode of action is a mystery for now; those with low selenium levels show a greater incidence of depression, but scientists aren't quite sure why. Supplemental selenium can correct a depressive mood, but an extra dose won't boost mood further.

The Sunshine Supper: A dinner of linguini with clams, with a side of sautéed spinach, white beans, and garlic will send you to bed happier.

Complex carbohydrates, especially potatoes, pasta, bread, beans, and cereals, onions; snacks: honey or sugar, low-fat, high carbohydrate foods such as air-popped popcorn, rice cakes, Cheerios, and other dry breakfast cereals. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages (coffee, black and green tea, colas, chocolate), especially if they are not part of your usual diet - sudden caffeine consumption can make you nervous and anxious. Avoid alcohol.

Why Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates trigger the release of insulin into the bloodstream, and insulin in turn clears all of the amino acids from the blood — except for tryptophan. Without competition from other amino acids, the tryptophan floods the brain, where it's converted into serotonin. The serotonin is a neurotransmitter that combats pain, decreases appetite, and produces calm or sleep.

The Serenest Soups: Hearty Tuscan soups like minestrone and ribollita (a variation on minestrone that includes bread and red onions) are a good lunch for when you're feeling stressed.

Saturated animal fat: Lard, butter, high-fat meat, poultry, fish, cheese and other dairy; alcohol.

Why Fat?
A diet high in saturated fat has been shown in studies to impair a wide range of learning and memory functions; a possible reason for this could be constricted blood flow to the brain.

Why Alcohol?
Alcohol's negative effects on the brain have been well documented — prolonged alcohol abuse can cause the brain to atrophy, and it impairs activity in the brain receptors necessary for memory and learning.

The Forget-It-All Brunch: A cheese soufflé with crumbled bacon and a cocktail.

Related Stories
• Feed Your Soul
• Don't Mess With Depress
• Chefs d'Net

 Email this article

Related Stories
• Feed Your Soul
• Don't Mess With Depress
• Chefs d'Net

Related Books
• Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul, Deborah Kesten, Herbert Benson

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