What to Eat – and to Avoid! – when Bad Moods Strike

Approaching your kitchen with caution is key when your mood heads south. Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition director at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, offers tips for what diet tweaks you should make to keep you in good spirits.

Feeing Stressed?
Eat your way through it … smartly. Certain key nutrients in foods can have an impact on your moods, says Cassetty. Try having whole-wheat pasta, which contains magnesium and may reduce stress responses in your body. Pair the pasta with salmon, which provides omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown these fish fats may help decrease anxiety symptoms. Round out your meal with a leafy green salad - like kale - or other fresh fruits and veggies that are full of vitamin C, which a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition linked to lower levels of stress markers.

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Feeling Angry?
When you're seeing red, think green. Having a cup of tea to help relax is a common for many people, but next time, make sure its green tea, says Cassetty. Green tea contains a mood-leveling antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). According to a 2012 study in the medical journal Appetite, patients who received a dose of EGCG rated their moods as calmer compared to those who took a placebo. Their brain waves suggested a "relaxed yet attentive state."

Feeling Down?
Eat breakfast! You can even reap the benefits of a morning meal without cooking - just reach for your cereal bowl. According to a 2011 study in the journal Stress and Health, having cereal at the start of the day may contribute to overall feeling of better wellbeing, perhaps because of cereal's role in promoting good digestion. It's too soon to tell, but there may be a brain-gut connection.

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Feeling Negative?
Put down the Ben & Jerry's! Although your knee-jerk reaction to a letdown may be to head for your favorite comfort food, "gorging on a tub of ice cream, a bag of potato chips or a whole pan of fudge brownies will only make you feel guilty later," says Cassetty. This only leads to more negative feelings and will make your down-in-the-dumps mood worse. "Put on your favorite upbeat song. It's a zero-calorie way to instantly lift your spirits," she explains.

Feeling Unmotivated?

Sipping wine and vegging out in front of the TV may sound appealing when you're battling the blahs, but your corkscrew is your worst enemy on days like these. "Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and lead to overeating," says Cassetty. Instead, take a quick stroll around the block. "It sounds counterintuitive, but getting a bit of exercise can actually boost your energy, which can help you tackle your to-do list."

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Feeling Sluggish?
If you're struggling to make it through an afternoon at the office, your blood sugar level may be the culprit. Keep your energy up by eating fiber- and protein-filled meals and snacks that enter the bloodstream slowly. An added bonus: They do a better job keeping your hunger at bay. Steer clear of the sweets - they're chock-full of refined carbs and sugar that will send your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride and prompt the afternoon slump. Also, don't overlook the value of sleep, says Cassetty. "Sleep deprivation can mess with the hormones that control your appetite and promotes cravings for more carbs and sugar."

- By JuJu Kim

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