Life & Beauty Weekly: Health

By Dominique Andrews for Life & Beauty Weekly

Has the long winter got you feeling down in the dumps? It’s tempting to head for the fridge when you’re feeling blue.

“The urge to splurge when we feel sad or stressed is fuelled by feel-good brain chemicals that are released when you eat comfort foods such as ice cream, brownies and chips,” says Janet Podleski, coauthor (with her sister) of bestselling cookbooks Looneyspoons and Crazy Plates, as well as co-host of the Food Network’s Eat, Shrink & Be Merry.

“Plus, when you’re stressed or upset, your body releases the hormone cortisol, which tells your brain to seek out rewards.” Podleski says. These rewards may be feel-good foods, because of the chemicals released when we eat them. However, Podleski points out that when we give into high-calorie, “taboo” foods, we feel like we’ve failed. We feel guilty, a mentality which usually leads to bingeing.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself when you need a lift! Instead, choose true comfort foods — ones that increase levels of serotonin (a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain), keep your blood sugar steady and your gastrointestinal tract running smoothly, all of which contribute to good mental health. Here, we serve up a day’s worth of smart choices to help you eat your way to happiness.

7:00 a.m.: Wake up With Water
Head for the tap after you wake up to rehydrate and replenish your energy. According to Podleski, the human body consists of over 80 percent water. “Dehydration slows your metabolism by two to three percent and can make arthritis symptoms worse, impair memory and brain function, and even cause premature aging,” says Podleski. She recommends drinking at least six to eight glasses of pure, filtered water per day. Bonus tip: Add a squirt of lemon juice to make the water’s PH more alkaline, which is good for burning fat!

7:30 a.m.: Grab Some Oats
Don’t skip breakfast! The right balance of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber can lessen mood swings by keeping your blood sugar stable. With oatmeal, you’ll hit the jackpot. Unlike refined carbohydrates that cause a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a sharp crash, oatmeal maintains energy levels for up to four hours and can trigger the release of calming serotonin. Cook yours in low-fat milk — its whey protein will also boost your serotonin levels. For an extra dose of fiber, stir in some blueberries.

12:30 p.m.: Mix It up With Salad
For lunch, pile your salad plate high with foods rich in folic acid, like baby spinach, hard-boiled eggs and avocado. Folic acid, a B vitamin, is another building block for maintaining high levels of serotonin, and studies have shown a link between depression and low levels of folic acid. You can also try putting lean turkey and walnuts on your greens: They’re high in selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that reduce stress and decrease depressive symptoms.

4:00 p.m.: Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
When the midafternoon slump hits, reach for a little chocolate. The sweet indulgence stimulates a release of pleasure-boosting endorphins in your brain — plus it’s also been linked to better heart health. Opt for a moderate 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate, which contains more antioxidant-heavy flavonoids than milk or white chocolate.

6:00 p.m.: Go Fish
Podleski suggests having one to two servings of salmon or another fatty fish per week, and dinner is the perfect time to fit this in. Salmon contains vital omega-3 fatty acids, which research has linked to a lower incidence of depression. Pair your fish dish with folate-rich mustard greens, collard greens, Swiss chard or kale.

10:30 p.m.: Make Bedtime Tea Time
A good night’s sleep has a huge effect on your mood. Without it, you’re more likely to crave the refined carbs and sweets that produce that awful crash-and-burn effect on your blood sugar and temper. Before you go to bed, sip on a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea, like chamomile or mint, to help you mellow out, get a better night’s sleep and feel great in the morning.

Dominique Andrews
is a freelance writer and television producer who writes on food and lifestyle topics for such magazines as
ReadyMade. She is a former food editor at
Ladies’ Home Journal. Andrews’ television productions include the cooking show
“Emeril Green.”
She is a frequent contributor to
Life & Beauty Weekly.

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