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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Take Charge of your Mood with Food

By: Karen McPartland, RD

Do you find that certain types of music can change the mood you are in?  Have you ever thought about how your mood affects your food choices or how your food choices affect your mood?   The effect of foods on mood is not completely understood; however, there seems to be a connection between the two.  Here are a few connections that you may find helpful to be aware of.  

If you are feeling anxious & want to calm down, enjoy a food that reminds you of a relaxing event or time to help in easing your mind.  Think of a food that evokes positive memories for you.  For example, a slice of watermelon might trigger memories of carefree summer days or a tropical fruit salad might enhance your memory of a peaceful island vacation.  Another option is to simply prepare a meal.  Bernadette Sushko, RN feels that the act of preparing a meal…the rhythm of slicing the ingredients…the smell that food combinations create in her kitchen, etc. can help to shift her mind’s focus from anxiety-provoking thoughts to a more peaceful focus.  So, get your favorite recipe out or pick a new recipe to try and get to work! 

If you are feeling sad & want to feel happier, eat avocado!  Avocado's vitamin B-6 and folic acid stimulate production of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter, serotonin.  Add sliced avocado to your lunch sandwich, top whole grain crackers with chunks of avocado or dip some raw vegetables into guacamole.  Another option is cold-water fish such as salmon or halibut.  These fish contain depression-fighting omega-3 fatty acids as well as mood-enhancing vitamins B-6, B-12 and folic acid.  Most of these fish also provide vitamin D, which like B-6, may help to raise levels of serotonin.  See the accompanying Fish Taco recipe for a meal that combines omega-3 rich fish with avocado.  

If you feel stressed and want to get your mind off of things, give into your food craving!  Do you find that when you are stressed, cravings for certain foods become more intense?  You are not alone!  Typical “stress cravings” include foods like chocolate, candy, fast food, pizza, and ice cream.  Reach for the foods you crave when stressed, but make them a little bit healthier.  For example, if you want pizza, steam some frozen chopped broccoli or sliced peppers as you wait for your pizza to get delivered and add these to the pizza when it arrives.  If it’s ice cream that you want, try low-fat ice cream or add some fresh or frozen berries to your bowl first and then top them with a small scoop of ice cream.  If chocolate is what you crave, eat some chocolate covered almonds, chocolate dipped strawberries, drink some chocolate soy milk or try making some hot cocoa with skim milk.  Giving into your craving may be just what your body needs to relief your stress!  

If you want to feel romantic or want your partner to be more amorous, serve rich flavorful foods like savory lean beef, zesty cheeses, sweet strawberries or delicious dark chocolate.  Add even more romance by cooking your meal together or by putting a spin to the eating process using fondue. 

Eating nutrient-dense foods in moderation is a great way to support your health, both physically and mentally.  You may recognize that certain foods can help to support the mood you want to be in, but know that it’s important to avoid a strong emotional connection to food.  To sustain a balanced mood, keep your relationship with food healthy, fuel your body with food throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels regulated, get plenty of sleep each night, and exercise consistently throughout the week. 


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