“Foods that score below 50 on the glycemic index, or low-GI foods, are complex carbohydrates that release their energy-giving glucose into the bloodstream slowly, like a time-release stimulant,” says Cass. These foods improve alertness, memory, energy levels, mental clarity, and moods.
Somer recommends to “eat a protein source with all meals, choose whole grain foods, and reduce your sugar intake,” in order to maintain a more constant energy level throughout the day. Some energy boosters include whole grains, yogurt, beans, legumes, oranges, pears, and dried apricots.
“Omega-3 fatty acids help to calm your brain and whenever you calm your brain, you calm your heart as well,” says Sinatra. According to Somer, stress affects your nutrient needs by reducing absorption, increasing excretion, and altering or increasing the daily requirements for certain nutrients. Yet, people’s habits are often at their nutritional worst during high stress.
“Foods that contain taurine or gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – amino acids that play a major role in the brain as inhibitory neurotransmitters – help calm an over-stimulated or excited brain,” says Cass. By inhibiting the release of adrenaline, taurine also protects us from anxiety and the adverse effects of stress. GABA controls the release of dopamine in the brain. Adequate levels lead to emotional tranquility while low levels are associated with anxiety, tension, and insomnia. The best food sources include animal and fish protein, especially organ meats such as beef and chicken liver. Vegetarians can be deficiency risks; talk with your doctor or nutritionist about supplementing your diet.
When shopping in the grocery store, choose foods that will make you feel more energized and happy as well as boost your sex drive. It’s just as easy as selecting foods that will make you feel tired and stressed, so why not aim for optimal nutrition?
This recipe is reprinted with permission from the Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD.
Midday Energy Booster
Prawn and Asparagus Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin Sauce
1/2 pound medium-size prawns, peeled and deveined
2 tsp. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs. fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and diced
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 head butter lettuce, washed and dried
Chop prawns into small pieces. Set aside. Warm oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, and green onions and toss in oil. Add red pepper and asparagus and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add prawns and soy sauce and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until prawns turn pink. Remove from heat.
Transfer prawn mixture to medium serving bowl. Place bowl in the middle of a large platter and arrange lettuce leaves around the bowl. Serve with hoisin sauce. To eat, spread a little hoisin sauce on lettuce leaf, place a spoonful of prawn mixture on top, wrap lettuce leaf around, and eat.Makes 4 servings: 117 calories; 29 percent from fat; 26 percent from carbohydrate; 45 percent from protein.