44/365: The Daily Dose Project People turn to carbohydrate-rich foods when they’re feeling blue. It’s no coincidence that people want pasta, desserts, doughnuts, and other carbohydrate-rich foods when they feel down in the dumps. As I described in detail in Food & Mood and Eat Your Way to Happiness, carbohydrates elevate brain levels of a nerve chemical called serotonin, which in turn alleviates irritability and elevates mood. A carbohydrate-rich snack of crackers and fruit, a candy or granola bar, or even a whole wheat bagel alters brain chemistry and provides temporary relief from mild depression. Unfortunately, people tend to turn to all the wrong carbs for all the right reasons. When depressed, they gorge on sweets, which add unwanted calories and wreak havoc with blood sugar levels, setting up a spiral of feeling better temporarily then feeling worse and returning to the sweets for another lift. People can get the same mental lift, without the unnecessary calories and blood-sugar roller coaster if they turn to the whole grains. But, keep the serving small. It only takes 30 grams of carbs to get the serotonin effect. That’s the equivalent of about 3 cups of air-popped popcorn. Anything more than that, and you’re just binging.

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