no matter where i hide it, the gooey chocolate spread calls out to me. It catches me at my most vulnerable. Whether I'm feeling a little low or just wanting a jolt of bliss, I indulge -- spoonful after spoonful -- until 24 hours later I'm left with an empty jar. Satisfied, bloated, then repulsed.
Chocolate, after all, is one of the most powerful mood-elevators, with its motherlode of sugar and fat and its release of happiness-boosting serotonin. But there are healthier ways of tweaking the psyche. Get to know the psychoactive qualities of what you eat and you can maintain equanimity.
Make sure you aren't short of selenium, a condition that can make life seem tougher than it is. Snack on sunflower seeds or brazil nuts to make sure. A deficiency of folic acid can do the same-- a situation remedied by orange juice or cooked spinach.
Many studies suggest a relationship between high fish consumption and happiness. It's omega-3 fatty acid that performs the magic. Oily fish like tuna and salmon are credited with being the most effective sources of omega-3. Walnuts and flax seeds are also at the top of the essential fatty oils list, along with olive, canola and hemp oils.
If you want more alertness, try protein that increases neurotransmitters and boosts energy levels. Fish, meat, tofu, eggs and beans all work, but for maximum effect don't mix with carbohydrates. To relax, turn to carbos -- whole grains and fruit. Vitamin B foods like bananas, avocados and beans fight the blues and irritability.
"The earth element, associated with the spleen and stomach, relates to energy levels. Ice cream is the worst thing for the spleen. It leads to brooding. Repressing worries creates cravings for earth-stimulating foods. Deep-fried, spicy or hot food aggravates the wood element, resulting in anger and frustration. Anything that's salty or cold might aggravate the water element and could incite feelings of fear."
MARY WONG, doctor of Chinese medicine
"The good fats help build protective sheaths around nerves in the brain. Avocados, durian fruit, nuts and hemp seed oil are the best sources of good fats. Bad fats, on the other hand, are generally the heated oils -- anything fried. Heated oils are worse than animal fat and are really bad for PMS and anxiety."
ANGELICA ERTEL, holistic consultant
"Fish oils are very important for the nervous system. But you don't want to generalize, because some fish can be toxic. You can also get the same benefits from flax seed oil, but you have to avoid rancid oils. Black currant oil, soy beans and soy milk are good, too."
ALLAN BORTNICK, naturopath
"With white sugar, you get a quick lift, then about 40 minutes later experience great apathy. People who eat refined sugars in junk foods tend toward depression. Our research shows that diabetics eating white bread instead of high-fibre products like pasta show a decrease in memory performance."
YANNI PAPANIKOLOU, PhD candidate in U of T's nutritional sciences
"Vitamin B complex is very good for anxiety: organ meats, rice bran, raw wheat germ, brown rice (unpolished) and brewer's yeast."
AL DENOV, naturopath