Health Tips: Mood foods

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In a parody of Frank Sinatra’s song “I’m in the Mood for Love,” Airfarcewon writes, “I’m in the mood for food/Simply because it’s near me/Hungry, because it’s near me/I’m in the mood for food.” Food and mood do make for an amusing rhyme, but they do a whole lot more than that. Turns out food actually plays a big role in triggering -- and sustaining -- your moods, both happy and blue.

An emerging field of research, nutritional psychiatry, is uncovering strong connections between what you eat and your state of mind. It’s based on the fact that your gut biome depends on a healthy mix of phytochemicals and nutrients to appropriately produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.

A study in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry states, “in recent years, it has become clear that the gut microbiome is in communication with the brain ... [and] that the gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder.” Another seven-year study found that folks who increased their consumption of fruits and veggies rated themselves much happier than those who didn’t. And the SMILES trial found that almost 33% of folks with diagnosed depression who switched to eating a plant-based diet reported their depression was gone.

Some of the best mood-enhancing foods are beans and lentils; salmon (canned and fresh), herring, anchovies and sardines; and frozen and fresh produce. So, ditch disease-promoting, brain-dulling added sugars and syrups, red meats and ultraprocessed foods -- and raise your spirits with good-mood foods. 

Walking intensely toward better health

In a 2019 NBA game against the Utah Jazz, LeBron James dribbled the ball past the half-court line and then just walked around a bit before remembering he should be dribbling. “That’s the worst I’ve ever done,” he admitted. But the refs didn’t call traveling (they rarely do). Seems the NBA has decided a bit of a walk is good for the game.

We’ve always said a walk (10,000 steps daily) is good for your game too. But a new study may be confusing you about walking’s health benefits.

The study in the European Heart Journal says bouts of moderate to vigorous exercise that are more intense than the effort needed to walk 10,000 steps over the course of a day can triple your heart-lung fitness level. That’s huge! But, despite what many headlines imply, that doesn’t mean that walking (however you do it) isn’t of great health benefit. The lead researcher even says, “higher steps were associated with higher fitness levels in our study ... I would not want to dissuade people from following their step counts.”

So walk on -- and for intensified benefits, add intensity to your walk(s) with interval training that totals 10,000 steps in one, two or three walking sessions daily. Aim for 5-10 minutes of moderate speed with 100-129 steps/minute, at least 2-3 minutes intense speed at 130-plus steps/minute, 1-minute slower pace (if needed); repeat over and over. Psst! 10,000 steps daily is still the level to aim for max protection from chronic diseases and premature death. 

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.

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