Boost your state of mind

For a very long time, I swore I wasn’t a morning person. As soon as I ate my routine breakfast of a toasted bagel with butter, I had to squeeze myself to stay awake.

Recently, I discovered my heavy lids and unlimited yawns were not an inclination, but rather a result of my diet. “Carbohydrates have a relaxing impact,” says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., director of the women’s health program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and coauthor of The Serotonin Solution. “And eating too many will make you sleepy,” she says.

Instead of feeling drowsy, I could really rise and shine in the morning? Absolutely. And you can, too, if you’re mindful of what you eat.

“Your diet eventually has an effect on how you feel,” says Mary Beth Augustine, R.D., a dietitian at the Continuum Center for Health & Healing in New York City. Banish three unsavory moods by eating the correct foods.

Mood: Stressed Out or Tense

You are running late for an important meeting; you are working on a tight deadline; you’re waiting for medical results from a serious test. No matter the scenario, strained situations can create comparable physiological reactions in your body. “Your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases and your body make glucose to give you the energy you need to get through,” says Augustine. There’s also a rise in cortisol, a hormone that, when released over time, can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Foods to reach for:

Complex carbohydrates, for example, vegetables, whole-grain bread and cereals, and starchy vegetables, for example, potatoes and corn.

Why it works:

“Carbohydrates distress you by expanding the production of serotonin,” says Dr. Wurtman. This key chemical in your brain improves mood, increases emotional vitality and relieves pain.


Basic carbohydrates that are refined or processed, for example, doughnuts and cookies, up serotonin production faster than complex carbohydrates by quickly releasing glucose, which further increases the brain’s ability to produce serotonin. But by choosing a jelly doughnut over a whole-wheat pita pocket you’ll pay a hefty price in weight gain and compromised healthy eating goals. In addition, for serotonin to tranquilize, carbs need to be eaten on an empty stomach and, shockingly, without protein.

By the way…

If your experience irritability brought on by premenstrual syndrome (PMS), then you have all the more reason to consume complex carbohydrates. Dr. Wurtman advises eating a baked potato or drinking PMS Escape, a carbohydrate-based beverage that reductions anxiety.


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