Good Mood Food


If you’re having high anxiety—sparked or spiked by the coronavirus pandemic—you may be lifting your mood with sweet treats, jacking up with java to fight low energy or dulling depression with alcohol.

Those are all natural chemical attractions–but the romance is doomed, says Staci Larkin, RDN, registered dietitian at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.

According to Larkin, you crush on candy because sweets and hidden sugars fuel the body’s release of feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine. But the bliss of a blood sugar rush is brief and, like a roller-coaster, the fall is as dramatic as the rise.

As for caffeine, it hikes another hormone, adrenaline, to stimulate the central and peripheral nervous systems as if you were facing a fight-or-flight danger. But that non-stop high alert raises anxiety, nervousness and the likelihood of panic and anxiety disorders, according to the American Academy of Child and Psychiatry journal.

Meanwhile, excess alcohol may dull depression short-term, but it also worsens sleep, and once the calm fades, negative emotions rebound even stronger, Larkin says.

How Much is Too Much?

Even before the pandemic, the average American consumed 34 teaspoons of sugar a day—or 100 pounds yearly, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines. That’s more than triple the recommended amount.

The guidelines also suggest curbing caffeine intake to 400 milligrams daily, and the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests less than 100 milligrams daily for children.

When consuming alcohol, women should limit alcohol to a single glass (5 ounces) of wine and two glasses for men per day.

“It’s always good to check with your physician, especially if you have any medical problems or are taking any medications,” Larkin says.

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