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What we eat affects how we feel

Food makes us feel good. Besides tasting great and nourishing the body, food also has an influence on appetite and moods. Research shows that certain foods affect powerful mood-modifying brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are made from the foods we eat, and are present in higher concentrations after meals than between them.

Of the many neurotransmitters present in our bodies, only a few affect appetite:

Serotonin: A chemical released after eating carbohydrates (sugars and starches). It enhances calmness, improves mood and lessens depression. Serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. High levels of serotonin control appetite and satisfy cravings.

Dopamine and norepinephrine: Chemicals released after eating protein (meats, poultry, dairy, legumes). They enhance mental concentration and alertness. These neurotransmitters come from the amino acid tyrosine.

What To Eat, And When

What you choose for a meal or snack can make a difference in how much you eat or how soon you will desire to eat again. Carbohydrate and protein sources at meals might help you to feel satisfied, both at the meal and after eating. Look for carbohydrate foods that are whole grain and/or contain whole grains and fiber. Choose foods such as:

Whole grain breads and cereals.

Potatoes with skin

Brown rice

Whole grain pasta

Pilaf made with bulgar and quinoa

Fresh fruits

Vegetables (lots!)

Low-fat protein foods are not only hearth-healthy, but are also easier to digest, and they won't leave you feeling weighed down like fried meats or high-fat choices such as spare ribs or salami. Choose items such as:

Lean meat

Skinless poultry

Fish

Tofu or textured vegetable protein

Beans and lentils

Low-fat dairy (yogurt, milk or cheese)

Combine carbohydrates and protein to keep your energy lasting even longer. Try them in any combination that works for you, or try some of these examples:

Whole grain bread with roast turkey and tomato slices, paired with an apple.

Salmon on a bed of lentils drizzled with fresh lemon juice, spicy brown rice and beans topped with Greek yogurt.

Chicken vegetable soup with a pear salad.

With good fuel, you will feel better, have more energy and sleep better.

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Julie Cantrell is owner of Hood River Curves.

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