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Foods to Help You Feel Better By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Posted Apr 12 2014 9:31pm
5. Get a daily dose of vitamin D.
Does a little time in the sun seem to make you feel better? The sun’s rays allow our bodies to synthesize and regulate vitamin D. 
Four recent studies showed an association between low serum levels of vitamin D and higher incidences of four mood disorders: PMS, seasonal affective disorder, nonspecified mood disorder, and major depressive disorder.
Researcher Pamela K. Murphy, PhD, at the Medical University of South Carolina says people can help manage their moods by getting at least 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day.
That’s significantly more than the Institute of Medicine’s Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D, which is 600 IU daily for ages 1 to 70, and 800 IU for people over 70.
Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. So she recommends we get vitamin D from a variety of sources: short periods of sun exposure, vitamin D supplements, and foods.
Vitamin D can be found in:
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks
But our primary source of dietary vitamin D is fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, breads, juices, and milk.
6. Treat Yourself to 1 oz of Chocolate
“Small amounts of dark chocolate can be a physical upper,” says Becker at Johns Hopkins. “Dark chocolate has an effect on the levels of brain endorphins,” those feel-good chemicals that our bodies produce. Not only that, but dark chocolate also seems to have a heart-healthy anti-clogging effect in our blood vessels.
In one study from the Netherlands, Dutch men who ate 1/3 of a chocolate bar each day had lower levels of blood pressure and lower rates of heart disease. The chocolate also boosted their general sense of well-being.
How Foods and Beverages May Make You Feel Bad
Just as some foods can help you feel better, others can make you feel down. Here are ways to reduce the harmful effects of three foods that can drag you down.  
1. Reduce foods high in saturated fat.
Saturated fat is well known for its role in promoting heart disease and some types of cancer. Now researchers suspect saturated fat also plays a role in depression.
The link was found in a study called the Coronary Health Improvement Project, which followed 348 people between the 24 and 81. A decrease in saturated fat over a six-week period was associated with a decrease in depression.  
2. Limit alcohol carefully.
That “feel-good” drink, alcohol, is actually a depressant. In small doses, alcohol can produce a temporary feeling of euphoria. But the truth is that alcohol is a chemical depressant to the human brain and affects all nerve cells.
Depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, people can go quickly from feeling relaxed to experiencing exaggerated emotions and impaired coordination.
It’s no coincidence that depressive disorders often co-occur with substance abuse, and one of the main forms of substance abuse in this country is alcohol.
3. Don’t go crazy with caffeine.
Caffeine can increase irritability a couple of ways.
  • If the caffeine you consume later in the day disrupts your nighttime sleeping, you are likely to be cranky and exhausted until you get a good night’s rest.
  • Caffeine can also bring on a burst or two of energy, often ending with a spiral into fatigue.
Some people are more sensitive than others to the troublesome effects of caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, decrease the amount of coffee, tea, and sodas you drink to see if this helps uplift your mood and energy level, particularly in the latter part of the day.
 
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