Eat your way to a better mood

The food-mood connection is much stronger than one may think. So many of us turn to junk food in times of stress, taking our moods from bad to worse.

Research has shown that emotional eaters tend to eat sweeter, high fat foods, and more energy dense meals. These behaviors can hurt your health by contributing to weight gain and increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

Just as eating junk can send your mood south, eating healthy can help you feel better.

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Here are six tips for eating your way to a positive outlook:

This dog can balance 50 treats on his nose, you can balance your meals

1.  Eat balanced meals and snacks

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Start off your day with a healthy breakfast that contains lean protein, whole grains and fruit.

Skip meals and you might faint!

2. Don’t skip meals

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Regularly spaced meals throughout the day gives you the proper energy to fuel optimal brain function throughout the day.

High five for whole grain breads

2.  Focus on whole grains

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Whole grains provide a slower release of glucose into your system, avoiding spikes in insulin and hunger. You know how low you can feel when your sugar crashes.

Choose whole wheat or multigrain breads, rice, cereals and pastas along with beans, nuts, seeds rather than their refined counterparts.

Omega 3s in salmon are good for your brain health

3.  Choose healthy fat

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Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy for the brain and central nervous system. Researchers continue to study the link between Omega 3 fatty acids and reduced rates of depression. Research suggests that fish eaters have a lower risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, although results have been inconsistent.

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and plant sources from flax, walnuts, canola oil, and omega fortified eggs.

Bananas aren't on the list, but they're good for you and this cat is eating one and it made me laugh.

4.  Get the right nutrients

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Although supplementation with micronutrients such as folate, vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D have been studied with mixed results, adequate food sources remain important for a well-balanced diet that maintains a healthy nervous system.

Folate is found in legumes, nuts, and dark green vegetables.

B-12 can be found in all animal products, preferably lean meats and low fat dairy products.

Selenium can be found in seafood, nuts (Brazil nuts are a particularly good source), beans, and meats.

Vitamin D can be obtained through adequate sun exposure, along with smaller amounts from dietary sources such as fish and fortified dairy and foods.

Coffee jitters? If you're sweating and your heart is pounding, it's time to cut back on caffiene

5.  Limit Caffeine

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Got the jitters? Or crashing? Too much caffeine can increase anxiety and cause wild swings in energy levels. As the caffeine addicts out there can tell you, if you drink more than 2 cups a day you should cut back slowly. Try switching to decaffeinated, lower calorie beverages like water, tea, and diluted juices.  Avoid sugary drinks, which can only make the problem worse.

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Oliver G, Wardle J, Gibson L.  Stress and food choice: a laboratory study.  Psychosomatic Medicine.  2000, 62(6): 853-865

Tanskanen A, Hibbeln Jtainen K, Honkalampi K, Hintikka J, Viinamaki, H. Fish consumption, depression, and suicidality in a general population.  Archives of General Psychiatry.  2001, 58(5): 512-513.

Ford AH, Flicker L, Thomas J, Norman P, Jamrozik K, Almeida OP.  Vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid for onset of depressive symptoms in older men: results from a 2-year placebo-controlled randomized trial.  The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2008, 69(8): 1203-1209.

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