Lisa M. Davis, Ph.D., PA-C, C.N.S., L.D.N. is the Director of Research and Development for Medifast. She holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University with a focus in Obesity Research, and she is currently the Director of Research and Development for the Medifast Program, a leading portion-controlled clinically proven weight loss program and co-author of the book, Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Health.

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Eating Your Way Thin

by Lisa Davis, Ph.D., Obesity Expert

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Want to feel happier, sexier, and smarter? In addition to their life-sustaining functions, certain nutrients in food act as precursors to chemicals in your brain which influence your mood.

Foods that Make You Happier, Sexier, SmarterRead on to learn which foods to include so you can help change your mood.

Happy Foods
In order to get happy, the first thing to do is make sure you are not deficient in any specific nutrient. Certain deficiency states may make you feel more depressed than you otherwise would. In particular, deficiencies of folic acid and selenium have both been linked to depression in clinical studies.

To ensure adequate intakes are being met, be sure to ingest at least 200 to 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. The folic acid is easily obtained when fortified breakfast cereals and enriched grains are consumed. Be sure to include one Brazil nut, or a handful of sunflower seeds, to get the recommended amount of selenium you need each day.

Improve your mood and relax a little with foods that boost the level of serotonin in your brain. Eating carbohydrate-rich foods like whole grain bread, rice and pasta stimulates the release of insulin into your bloodstream which clears away all other amino acids except for tryptophan. Without competition from other amino acids, tryptophan readily crosses the blood brain barrier and is converted into serotonin, which leads to increased feelings of pleasure and relaxation. It has also been shown to reduce pain and suppress appetite.

Other essential nutrients to include are omega-3 fatty acids. These may be obtained through dietary sources like salmon, flax and tofu, or through supplementation. A wealth of available research suggests a role for fish oils in treating depression and other mood disorders. One study found that 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (1600 mg EPA and 800 mg DHA) reduced depressive symptoms and elevated mood compared to placebo.

Sexy Foods
Looking for another reason to enjoy chocolate? Go ahead and indulge. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a chemical associated with feelings of love and attraction.

Combine your endorphin-enhancing chocolate with arginine-rich nuts. L-arginine is an amino acid that has been shown to enhance blood flow to desired areas. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts and cashews are all excellent sources of l-arginine.

Even better, treat yourself to some chocolate-covered nuts for the combined benefit. Wash it all down with a glass " not the bottle " of resveratrol-rich Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. The goal is to get in the mood, not fall asleep!

Smart Foods
Boost your level of alertness and ability to learn by consuming lean protein sources like fish, chicken, eggs, dried peas and beans. Protein contains amino acids, such as tyrosine, that lead to the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are directly associated with increased alertness and energy.

Protein sources like eggs, meat and milk are also excellent sources of the memory vitamin choline. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is specifically involved in learning and short-term memory. Experts believe exposure to choline during early development can increase memory capability.

Research has also shown that an inadequate supply of acetylcholine in the brain leads to the breakdown of memory function, as seen in Alzheimer's disease.

Finally, get the day started right with a cup or two of green tea. Tea contains the non-protein amino acid, l-theanine, which is found in highest levels in green tea leaves. A recent study found that when 100mg l-theanine and 50mg caffeine were given to subjects, they experienced improved performance in speed and accuracy when doing cognitively demanding tasks compared to those who received a placebo.

Whether your goal is to feel happier, sexier or smarter, avoiding excessive amounts of sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and including antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, and whole grains are fundamental.

Happy eating!

Lisa M. Davis, Ph.D., ...    Continue

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