Get in the Mood — With Food

If your boss wants to take you to lunch, SAY NO! According to
Eating Well (May/June 1995) corporations who are ‘simply
interested in optimizing employee performance’ are very interested
in research on how certain foods can pump up workers to peak
performance mode. In fact, Supervision magazine recently
revealed the ideal fare for maximum productivity: fish or poultry
with a vegetable or salad. Sure, it beats a bologna sandwich, but
how soon until ‘happy soup’ is standard swill in the company
cafeteria? EATING WELL also learned that Campbell’s Soup is
developing products ‘that can be marketed as enhancing happiness or
mental alertness.’

Fascination with mood-enhancing food is clearly on the rise,
EATING WELL’s Mary Hegarty Nowlan and Elizabeth Hiser report, and
research confirms its potential. For example, doses of tyrosine, an
amino acid in protein, makes people shine on mental tasks. While
other components in high-protein foods — notably fat — will slow
down this ‘mental adrenaline,’ food research pioneer Judith Wurtman
recommends scarfing protein when you need to think fast.

Carbohydrates help you relax via their amino acid tryptophan,
which makes serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. This explains
why a mopey mood is lifted by pasta and cookies, and why in one
study PMS-prone women who sipped a high-carb solution perked up
quickly. Ditto for the folks suffering from Seasonal Affective
Disorder, who are bummed by winter’s darkened days — a combo of
sitting under lights and chowing carbos did the trick.

Cravings for food that will increase serotonin levels also
explains addictions like chocolate, and in my case, saut?ed onions.
Mood food guru Jean Carper prescribes an onion snack for a
sedative, and garlic for a picker-upper in an excerpt from her book
Food — Your Miracle Medicine (HarperCollins, $14).

And while chocaholics need no proof the delicious drug works,
they’ll find the science behind it in EATING WELL (it’s got
caffeine for a light buzz and a lovely carbo combo of calming
butterfat and serotonin-sparking sugar) and in the
Chocolate
Trivia site
, which notes that researchers credit chocolate’s
phenylethylamine for creating sensations that are akin to being in
love. So who needs relationships? Hand over that KitKat bar!

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