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Newsletter for December 2009
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11 foods that can make you happy
by Willie T. Ong, MD
You’ve had a bad day. You’re feeling
cranky and lonely. What to do? Aside from finding ways to fix
your problem, try these comfort foods to make you happy. The
secret is in choosing foods rich in omega-3 fats, folic acid,
selenium, and vitamin B12. These nutrients can lift your mood,
so let’s check them out:
1) Milk, preferably skim milk. Milk products are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid our brain needs in order to make serotonin. Serotonin is a natural chemical that makes us happy and calm. Anti-depressants work in a similar way by conserving the brain’s serotonin. Milk also contains antioxidants, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 that help fight stress and aging. Have some skim milk every day. It’ll make you happier and the calcium content is good for your bones, too.
2) Chocolate. Who needs an excuse to eat chocolate? Not me. Chocolate contains anadamine, a brain chemical that helps brighten our mood. Scientists believe that other chemicals in chocolate cause anadamide to stay longer in the brain, thus enhancing its positive effect. The sugar in chocolate also boosts our levels of endorphins, another hormone that makes us happy. Don’t eat too much, though.
3) Rice, bread, noodles or pasta. Here’s our favorite comfort food – carbohydrates. Don’t believe all those low-carb diets; they can actually make you crabby and gloomy. Eating carbohydrates can increase our serotonin levels, which has a calming effect. But to prevent sudden jumps in your blood sugar, choose healthier carbohydrates like brown rice, wheat bread, and vegetables. These good carbos are digested more slowly and make you fuller and possibly happier for a longer time.
4) Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines. Oily fishes are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which can lift our mood. A study in Finland shows that people who eat more fish are less likely to be depressed. High doses of omega-3 may even be used to treat clinical depression. Most fish are also packed with vitamin B6 and B12, which are involved in the production of serotonin. As an alternative, you can try omega-3 supplements. Foods rich in omega-3 will not only make you happier, they’re good for the heart and brain, too.
5) Bananas. Bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin. And we know that serotonin is a hormone that makes us cheerful. Bananas contain carbohydrates as well to boost our energy. Its high potassium content also prevents cramps and it’s good for exercising individuals. Experts believe that bananas are one of the world’s healthiest fruits. So take two bananas a day to keep the doctor away.
6) Broccoli. Broccoli is another amazing food that is full of vitamin Bs, the vitamin that helps fight stress. Studies show that folate or folic acid in broccoli can improve our temperament. Aside from lifting our spirits, broccoli is a potent anticancer food, proven in laboratory studies to inhibit cancer cells.
7) Spinach. Popeye’s favorite food! If you want to be so full of zest like Popeye, it pays to eat your spinach. Like broccoli, spinach is packed with folic acid, an important B vitamin for making serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical. It’s about time we taught our kids about this incredible vegetable. Eat a cup of cooked spinach to obtain approximately 250 micrograms of folic acid. This amount is enough to make you feel like Popeye, full of vigor to face the day.
8) Blueberries. Blueberries are abundant in antioxidants and vitamin C, which are known stress-busters. Antioxidants help remove toxins (called free radicals) that circulate in our body. These free radicals damage our organs and cause us to age faster, that’s why we need to remove them. Blueberries are also loaded with fiber, which is good for digestion. Some studies show that blueberries and strawberries may prevent cancer by removing these destructive free radicals.
9) Beans and soybeans. Beans are packed with soluble fiber, folic acid, and omega-3 fats, the three ingredients known to improve our mood. Beans are also excellent sources of iron and calcium, which can increase our red blood cells, and are good for the bones. Moreover, soy contains genistein, a weak estrogen-like substance, which may prevent prostate and breast cancer. If you like soy milk and taho, they’re good for you, too.
10) Nuts. Nuts are nutritional powerfoods, rich in protein, minerals (especially selenium), and omega-3 fats. Nuts also contain vitamin E, an antioxidant to fight stress. Locally, we have nilagang mani (boiled peanuts) and cashew nuts. Studies show that Brazil nuts are the number one source of the mineral selenium. Seafood is another good source of selenium. Aside from lifting our mood, nuts are considered as “brain food” because of their high content of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 helps improve the blood flow in our brain. (Students, take note.) Take an ounce of nuts every day. Don’t eat too much of them though, because nuts are salty and high in uric acid, which can be bad for those with high blood pressure and gout.
11) Coffee. A study from Brazil shows that people who drink coffee with milk every day are less likely to suffer from depression. Caffeine is probably the world’s most popular mood-enhancing drug. But it has its pros and cons. Coffee boosts your energy levels, makes you feel more alert, and can improve your memory. A single cup of coffee with milk in the morning can jumpstart your day. However, too much coffee can also wreck your disposition, cause heart palpitation and anxiety, and make it difficult for you to sleep. A cup or two a day is okay. Small doses of caffeine can improve your mood but too much coffee can be bad for your health.
Finally, any food you crave can be considered your own personal comfort food. Eating anything delicious stimulates the production of endorphins, making us happy. Endorphins can reduce pain sensation, too, and is like the brain’s natural painkiller.
Just remember to take these foods in moderation. Don’t eat too much or you’ll gain weight. Good luck!
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