When you’re feeling down, it’s tempting to make yourself feel better by reaching for a piece of candy or a bag of chips. While these so-called “comfort foods” may elevate your mood for a few minutes, that lift quickly disappears, leaving you tired, feeling guilty and less healthy, a top nutritionist tells Newsmax Health.
When we eat sugary foods, the body releases serotonin, a natural “happy” hormones that elevate mood, says Charles Platkin, M.D., a nationally syndicated columnist and a best-selling nutrition author. The problem, though, is that these foods cause the level of insulin in the blood to spike, resulting in a fast drop that leaves us as unsatisfied as before.
When we eat high-fat foods, they signal our body to release endorphins, another “feel-good” hormone. The problem, though, is they also release chemicals that make us feel groggy and sleepy.
Dr. Platkin, a professor of nutrition at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, says that there are healthy foods that can lift your spirits without damaging your health. Here are his top seven choices:
1. Soup. Soup is a comfort food. It may not give you the same carbohydrate buzz as a high-fat food, but it is satisfying and sustaining. For many people it brings back pleasant memories of childhood. Stick with low-sodium versions if possible.
2. Fruit. Fresh fruit contains lots of natural sugar, and choosing one that’s also high in fiber will slows digestion and eliminates an insulin spike. Apples, pears, nectarines, and peaches are all good choices –just be sure not to peel them so you get the fiber.
3. Popcorn. Whole grains also raise “happy hormone” levels, and popcorn is an excellent way to get whole grains. If you pop the corn yourself, it’s also a fun activity. Use a flavored spray instead of butter so you don’t add too much fat. Avoid microwave popcorn that has artificial butter flavor.
4. Whole grain pasta. The fiber in whole grains leave you feeling full longer. Top your pasta with a vegetable-based sauce that is low in fat and calories.
5. Eggs. If you have a big day coming up, choose scrambled eggs for breakfast. Eggs contain amino acids that act like adrenalin, plus protein to keep you from getting hungry. Just be sure not to scramble those eggs in too much butter or oil.
6. Nuts. Nuts, such as almonds, for instance, are an excellent mood booster. Just be sure to limit the amount you eat, because the calories add up.
7. Grilled skinless chicken. Chicken is a healthy lean protein that contains amino acids to give you a boost, much as eggs do.
Above all, don’t fall for the current marketing craze surrounding caffeinated energy drinks and elixirs. They may give you a mood boost, but you’ll fall into a slump just as fast, Dr. Platkin says. “Anything that brings you up too quickly is going to bring you down fast.”
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