Friday, April 12, 2013

Get Happy Snacks that will Elevate Your Mood

When you are feeling down, depressed or irritable, having a mood elevating snack can help you feel much better. Researchers recently demonstrated a correlation between what you eat and your mood. It does appear that the old adage, “You are what you eat” is spot on. In one particular study, researchers were able to show a relationship between junk food and depression. In the study that tracked participants over five years, it was found that 58% of food junkies were more likely to have the blues than their counterparts in a different focus group whose diet consisted mainly of whole foods.

It is therefore a good idea to try a mood elevating snack next time you need a nibble. The key is having a snack that is rich in omega -3 fats, folic acid, selenium or vitamin B12 or, a snack that incorporates all these nutrients. Foliate (folic acid) helps improve communication between brain cells while omega 3 fats ward off depression by protecting the brain from inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants which have been linked to lower incidences of depression.

Examples of Mood Elevating Foods you can Snack on


Milk is rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid used by the brain to manufacture serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for making us happy and calm. Why else do you think babies settle down the moment they get a bottle of milk and promptly drift off to sleep? Commercial anti depressant medication maintains high serotonin levels in your brain. Other vitamins found in milk such as Vitamin D and B12 help reduce stress and the effects of aging. When you are feeling down and under, a glass of milk will make you feel better; just make sure it is skimmed so that you don’t end up taking in too much butter fat.


Few people need an excuse to munch on a chocolate bar. Chocolate does two things to elevate your mood. First, it contains anandamide, a lipid chemical that is similar to a chemical - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - found in marijuana. Yes, that was not a typo, marijuana. Both chemicals trigger the release of dopamine in the brain which leads to a ‘high effect.’  However, even though the anandamide in chocolate helps to create a feeling of well being, it would take about 25 pounds of chocolate to achieve the “marijuana high.” The second thing that chocolate does is to trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins lessen pain and reduce stress.

 However, you must be careful not to overindulge when snacking on chocolate due to the high calorie content. A small piece, the size of your little finger, will usually do the trick when you need a get happy snack.

Brown Rice, Wheat Bread and Noodles

The most favorite get happy snacks for most women are heavy in carbs. This is understandable because carbs actually increase the serotonin levels in our brains and leaves us feeling calm. Unfortunately, carbs also make you fat in the long run so it is not a good idea to eat unhealthy carb packed snacks too often. It is better to go with healthier carbs from brown rice and wheat flour products. These will tend to be digested slowly and will not give you a sugar high.

Oily Fish

Oily fish varieties such as sardines, salmon and mackerel are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. A recent study in Finland showed that people who ate fish were less likely to suffer from depression. In addition to making you feel happier, omega 3 is also good for your brain and heart.


Bananas are rich in tryptophan which is used by the brain to manufacture serotonin. They are also one of the healthiest fruits and therefore make excellent snacks.


Broccoli is rich in foliate and the B class of vitamins. Foliate improves brain functionality and has been shown to improve temperament.


Just like Broccoli, spinach is rich in foliate and provides the same temperament benefits. It is estimated that a cup of cooked spinach contains about 250 micrograms of folic acid. Get out your cook book and find innovative ways of preparing a spinach snack.

These are just a few examples of get happy snacks. The list is endless and would include blueberries, beans, soya, nuts and many more.

Sugar – Cant’ Live With It, Can’t Live Without It

This is the paradox of sugar. Whilst our bodies cannot do without it, it is also responsible for a host of health complications. However, problems usually arise when we overdo it; therefore the key to living a healthy life is the moderation of sugar.

Broadly, there are basically two kinds of sugars; good sugars and bad sugars. Bad sugar is the processed form found in cakes, sweets, ice cream, soda, juice concentrate, white flour products and a host of other tasty goodies that we really enjoy. Good sugar is generally found in natural foods and your body needs to work a bit more in order to break it down and use it. Examples of good sugar foods include honey, brown flour products, brown rice, sweet potatoes and other similar foods we all don’t seem to enjoy too much. Nutritionists refer to these sugars as simple and complex sugars respectively. To live well with sugar you must make it a point to consume complex sugars and keep away from simple sugars as much as possible.

However, that is easier said than done. Fighting off the urge to have an ice cream or drink a cold soda on a really hot day can be a daunting task. There are also everyday drinks such as coffee or tea which simply do not taste the same without that spoonful of table sugar. So how then do you avoid bad sugar? Well, the answer lies in sugar substitutes.

Muscovado Sugar

If you really have a sweet tooth, then you should consider using Muscovado sugar. This is an unrefined sugar made from cane juice and has widespread usage in the baking industry. The fact that it is unrefined (it is actually brown in color due a high molasses content), makes it much healthier as it has a lower calorie content compared to the normal table sugar. You can use it in your coffee, cakes, ice cream, chutney, sauces and any other food items that satisfy your sweet tooth.


Despite that fact that both honey and table sugar both contain glucose and fructose, honey has amazing antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that do wonders for the body. Honey also contains more calories per teaspoon but you tend to use less of it when using it as a sweetener because it is sweeter than normal sugar. Hence, the calorie count advantage of normal sugar is negated. Being a natural product, honey is broken down slowly and digested over a longer period of time. This is in contrast to normal sugar which can raise your blood sugar level within a very short time – the well known sugar rush - which is bad for the body. 

Honey and Muscavado sugar are natural sugar substitutes. However, there are also a few artificial sugar substitutes which will help you stay away from bad sugar. The following are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
  •       Saccharin
  •        Aspartame
  •     Sucralose
  •        Acesulfame potassium
  •        Neotame

Just read the label on the sweetener to find out which of the above is used its manufacture. However, it must be noted that artificial substitutes have been the subject of much heated debates with some organizations linking them to cancer. However, no sound scientific evidence is available to back up these claims.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dealing Effectively with Boredom and Lack of Motivation

Boredom can strike women at any time of their lives and is actually quite a common problem. Most women will at some point in their lives feel restless, uncomfortable or generally have a “blah” feeling that they have reached a plateau and need something more to challenge them. This is usually very common with women who are engaged in mundane and robotic day-to-day activities. Some careers can have this effect and so too can being a stay at home mom.

Defining Boredom

Before learning how to deal with boredom and lack of motivation, we need to define boredom. You are bored if; your attention wanders, you have impaired mental and physical efficiency or, if your arousal levels are at all time low. This must not be confused with physical fatigue. Boredom is a direct result of lack of stimulation and/or interest usually triggered by dull and repetitive routines. The proverbial “All work and no play makes Jack (or Jane) a dull boy/girl,” couldn’t be a more apt definition for boredom.
There are a number of solutions to boredom and most try to bring in some variety to spice up your life.

Incorporate Some Fun Activity into Your Schedule

One of the ways to deal with boredom effectively is to incorporate a fun activity in your daily schedule. Regardless of how busy you may be you can always squeeze in some activity where you get to have fun by yourself, with your partner or your family. Good examples include; scheduling an aerobics dance class, dating, going to a movie, playing scrabble, just to mention but a few. Making such a small change to a mundane schedule can do wonders for boredom and lack of motivation. If lack of motivation has been causing problems at work, you will immediately see a marked improvement in your concentration and output.

Have a Single Goal

The second strategy to effectively beat boredom and lack of motivation is to have a single goal in life that is worth one hour of your time everyday. This goal must be something you want so passionately that you will look forward to that one hour daily. The goal should give you pleasure, offer meaning, re-energize you and be something you are completely willing to do because you enjoy doing it. The single goal should come from the bottom of your heart; it should neither be borrowed nor imposed on you by anybody else. It should be one that you can fulfill in an hour daily.

Having a single meaningful goal to look forward to everyday can do wonders to improve your motivation and eliminate boredom. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment and contentment everyday. To come up with a single goal that is worth one hour of your life everyday, consider your life carefully and you will soon have your answer. It could be working out for an hour daily, writing for an hour, reading a book, bonding with your kids, spending time with your partner, having some spiritual quiet time or volunteering to a worthy cause. List all the choices you come up with and narrow them down until you decide on a single thing that’s worth an hour of your time on a daily basis.

A Few Food Safety Tips for Your Kitchen

Many women especially stay at home moms; spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen. Despite this, many kitchens in America are not as clean as they should be. The kitchen happens to be the busiest bacteria factory in the house and due diligence needs to be taken to keep it as sparkling clean and germ free as possible. The following tips are useful pointers to keep your kitchen from becoming a health hazard.

Countertops are notorious for encouraging the growth of bacteria. It typically happens when you prepare one food item which accidentally spills on the counter. You then fail to completely clean up the mess and later prepare another food item which comes into contact with the counter e.g. spilling cake batter that contains raw eggs and then later making a ham sandwich on the same countertop.
To avoid food contamination from countertops, always clean the surface with a disinfecting wipe. The disinfectant you use should have a label that clearly says, “Kills 99.9% of household germs.”

Cutting Board
Cutting boards are used for preparing up all manner of food items ranging from vegetables to raw meat. It is not uncommon to use the cutting board to debone a raw chicken leg and five minutes later prepare vegetable salad ingredients on the same board – all without washing it. You can clearly see the salmonella alert. This usually happens when you are in a hurry to prepare dinner or are simply not paying enough attention to what you are doing.
To avoid such situations, always have separate chopping boards for meat and veggies. Also, avoid wooden boards because they tend to be porous and encourage bacteria. Always go with plastic or glass. If you prefer wood, then make sure it has been treated with an antimicrobial compound. You can usually get this information from the store supplier.

Faucet Filter
Faucet filters are supposed to make our tap water safer for drinking as well as for cooking purposes. However, sometimes you may contaminate the faucet by accidentally bumping a dirty dish cloth against it. Dirty water and food can also accumulate on it by being accidentally splashed on. In the process, harmful bacteria can grow and become a health hazard for you and your family.

Dish Towel
Dish towels are another potential source of dangerous bacteria. We use them to wipe our hands and continue to cook, totally oblivious of the obvious dangers. For example, rinsing raw chicken and fish and then wiping our hands on the towel is a sure recipe for salmonella contamination.
To avoid this, always wipe your hands with paper towels when handling raw meats and discard the towels in the litter bin. After handling raw meats, make sure you wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Knife Block
Returning knives to the knife block while still wet encourages the growth of mold. To avoid this, scour your kitchen knives with dish washing liquid and dry them completely with a dry cloth. It is actually better to store your knives in a kitchen drawer rather than in a knife block. The block looks neat but it can be a serious health hazard.

Everything you rinse on the sink, especially animal products, leaves a bacterial residue. To discourage multiplication of harmful bacteria, disinfect your sink with a mixture of bleach and water every day.

Following these few tips will go a long way to keep your family safe from dangerous bacteria and germs.