Doctors Offer Five Mood-Boosting Tips for the Holiday Season
Beat the Blues and Fight Stress with Low-Fat Vegetarian Foods
WASHINGTON—If you’re feeling down this December, grab a carrot instead of a candy cane. The doctors and nutritionists at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) offer five tips for eating right during the holiday season to combat stress and depression.
“This time of year can be stressful, and many people make the mistake of turning to sugary or fatty junk foods for comfort,” says Tim Radak, DrPH, R.D., associate nutrition director at PCRM. “But low-fat vegetarian foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the best mood-boosters during the holiday season.”
Five tips to boost your mood:
1. Favor Fiber and Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us. Also, a diet high in fiber fills you up and helps prevent late-night binging. Some examples of healthy comfort foods include baked sweet potatoes, minestrone soup, or sautéed vegetables over rice.
2. Load up on Fruits and Vegetables
Chronic stress can weaken our ability to fight disease. By upping our intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, we can boost our immune system. Acorn squash and carrots are examples of great sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Citrus fruits provide plenty of vitamin C, another stress-busting antioxidant.
3. Fight the Fat
Fatty foods such as meat or cheese dishes contribute to making us feel lethargic as the body metabolizes the excess fat and calories. This is clearly not a good way to reduce stress. And some studies have found that even one high-fat meal can increase our risk of a heart attack.
4. Skip the Sugar
Sugar tends to calm us—at first. The problem with sugar is that it's a simple carbohydrate, so it enters and leaves the bloodstream rapidly, causing us to, in effect, “crash.” On the other hand, the complex carbohydrates found in pasta, beans, and lentils soothe without bringing us down.
5. Can the Caffeine
Many of us deal with a stress-induced lack of sleep by turning to coffee, tea, and colas. Unfortunately, for some people, caffeine stays in the bloodstream longer than many realize and tends to rev up our metabolism, making us reach for more food. Cutting back on caffeine can also help with both sleeping problems and the jitters.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.