Healthy Food For Your Holiday Mood
You probably already know that your Thanksgiving turkey dinner can help you to fall asleep at night. But did you know that turkey and other foods you enjoy during the holiday times can also make you more joyful by serving as a natural, side effect free anti-depressant?
Proper levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter produced by the brain, are essential to feeling joyfully calm. Low serotonin levels have been shown to cause symptoms such as anxiety, listlessness, fear, insomnia, fatigue and depression.
In fact, depression has become the nation's most prevalent health problem, with over 15 million Americans receiving treatment for it. Reports show that we spend nearly $3 billion a year on prescription drugs alone to fight depression. However, while most anti-depressant prescription medications work to regulate the release and action of serotonin already available in the brain, they do not cause the brain to produce more serotonin.
This is where holiday foods such as turkey come in to play. L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in turkey and omega 3-rich foods like salmon, is needed for the brain to produce serotonin. Without enough tryptophan in your diet, the brain won't be able to produce adequate levels of serotonin. Vitamin C, found in holiday treats like Clementines, also helps the brain properly convert tryptophan into serotonin. Including more of these foods in your diet is an easy, side-effect free way to give yourself a natural anti-depressant.
Other foods, such as complex carbohydrates, encourage the brain to release stored serotonin, creating a calming effect for the body and mind. If you are one of the many people who finds themselves craving a candy bar or sugary treat when you are stressed, your body is wisely trying to create this effect.
But don't reach for another slice of pumpkin pie just yet! Unfortunately, foods high in processed sugars create only a temporary spike in serotonin levels which quickly crashes. And fried foods or carbohydrate products with high amounts of saturated fats can actually slow down the synthesis of serotonin, leading to sluggishness, slow thinking and fatigue.
So when planning out your holiday meals this season, consider including some of these healthy foods shown to either increase serotonin production or serotonin release turkey, salmon, white fish, bananas, pineapples, plantains, plums, tomatoes, black olives, broccoli, cauliflower, dates, eggplants, figs and spinach. Be sure to choose low fat meats and cooking styles that preserve the nutrients in delicate fruits and vegetables, such as steaming or creating a hearty stew.
With a little extra focus, you can create holiday meals that are not only delicious, but help keep the whole family healthy, happy and stress-free throughout the season.
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