Food Factoids: Nuts, Carbs, Protein, Caffeine, Chocolate and Omega-3’s

 ‘Tis the Season to be Jolly – and Energized!

Carbohydrates may be the enemy of some adhering to fad diets, but they are important energy sources and have even been shown to elevate your mood by raising serotonin levels. The body uses food for energy by converting it into glucose. Carbs are the easiest “fuel” for the body to convert, making them the perfect go-to source for quick energy. To keep your energy going at full speed this holiday season, choose complex carbs like whole grains, vegetables, beans and fresh fruits. They also help promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that keep the body in balance. Easily digested carbohydrates such as white breads and rice, candy, and processed foods can lead to weight gain or interfere with weight loss. So stay away from the sweets to avoid blood sugar spikes and feelings of moodiness and fatigue. Keep your blood sugar (and your mood!) stable by turning down the second helping of fruit cake and picking up a piece of fruit! The fiber will also help keep blood sugar levels and your mood stable throughout your long days and nights keeping up with the holiday festivities. Source: (Wurtman and Wurtman, 1995)

Go NUTS for Nuts!

Almonds, cashews and hazelnuts are rich sources of protein and magnesium — a mineral reported to have energy boosting benefits by helping to convert sugar into energy. Research has suggested that a deficiency in magnesium can lead to feelings of sluggishness. Also, studies suggest that there is a link between selenium levels and mood. A New Zealand study found the addition of just two Brazil Nuts per day was as effective in regulation of selenium levels as supplements. So go ahead, grab a handful at your next holiday party! Sources: (www.naturalnews.com and www.natureschoice.co.za)

Pass that Drumstick Please

Everyone knows that lean cuts of pork, beef, skinless chicken and turkey can be healthy sources of protein. But did you know that adding these meats to your plate can also boost your intake of the amino acid tyrosine? Tyrosine is the precursor amino acid to the endogenous brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, which can help you feel more alert and focused this holiday season. As an added bonus, lean cuts of meat also contain vitamin B12. Studies show this vitamin may help combat insomnia and depression. In fact, an epidemiology study found a metabolically significant Vitamin B12 deficiency to be associated with a two-fold risk in developing severe depression. Turkey leftovers, anyone? Source: Penninx et al., American Journal of Psychiatry, 157 (5), pp. 715-721. 2000.

Dive into Dark Chocolate

The holiday season can be busy and stressful, but a little dark chocolate can go a long way when it comes to improved mood. Small amounts of dark chocolate can boost both energy and mood thanks to the combination of caffeine and theobromine. A double benefit to dark chocolate? A study, Flammer et al. (2007), showed that consuming 40 g of 70-percent cocoa induced coronary vasodilation and improved coronary vascular function for up to two hours after ingestion. Sounds like a perfect excuse not to wait until Valentine’s Day! Source: (www.chocolate.org)

Gather ‘Round the Table for Omega-3

Most think of cooked hams, pot roasts or oven-gold turkey during the holidays. However, salmon might be an equally ideal option for your family dinner. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which could help fight off and protect against depression, a condition that often plaques many during a nostalgic time of year. Researchers at Ohio State University analyzed blood samples from 43 middle-aged men and women and found those who were Alzheimer-patient caregiver spouses were more likely to report symptoms of depression and have higher levels of cytokines which enhance inflammation. Furthermore, it has been shown that clinically depressed people often have lower levels of omega-3. Supplementation of omega-3 in the diet has been shown to improve depression. Besides fish, other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include nuts and leafy, dark green vegetables. Perhaps it’s time to add a little holiday cheer by trying a new dish that incorporates ingredients rich in omega-3! Sources: (http://researchnews.osu.edu and www.umm.edu)

Holiday CHEERS!

While eggnog and hot cocoa are popular holiday drinks, they can often pack on the pounds with their high sugar and/or fat content. Instead, stay warm and alert this winter with small and frequent cup o’ Joes, which can help temporarily improve your mental focus and provide some energy. Not a fan of coffee? Tea’s combination of caffeine and L-theanine has been suggested to be the source behind this comforting drink that helps to improve alertness, enhance memory, and even stave off stress. Add some milk for an added protein boost to keep the energy flowing. Remember, you can always treat yourself to a latte to help finish up your last minute shopping! Source: (www.naturalmedicine.suite101.com)