Snacking on fruit and cheese can calm your nerves and make you feel more optimistic for up to 4 hours, according to Stanford researchers. The reason: Fruit's carbs and fructose induce soothing serotonin, while a protein in cheese increases production of feel-good hormones. Paired up, they pack a one-two punch against fall doldrums.
Need more oomph to tackle to-dos? Give yourself a boost by adding cilantro to dishes. The flavorful herb delivers phytonutrients that ward off energy-draining blood sugar spikes and crashes for up to 6 hours, so you energy steady, lasting pep. For a delicious treat, toss together 2 cups of diced peaches, 1/2 cup minced green peppers, 1/4 cup minced red onions, 2 Tbs. minced cilantro and 1 Tbs. minced mint and dress with 2 Tbs. lime juice and 1 Tbs. honey. Yum!
We love this new finding from Australian scientists: Consuming cocoa daily helps people feel calmer and less reactive to daily stress. The credit goes to polyphenols that interact with stress-relieving GABA receptors in the brain, generating feelings of peace. To enjoy the effects, look for high-quality dark chocolate and cocoa powder to use in drinks and baked goods. One of our favorites: Reserveage Organics CocoaWell Powder ($18 for 8 oz., at VitaminShoppe.com) and Whole Foods Market stores.
Wake up feeling a little fuzzy? Try adding some blueberries to your morning routine! Researchers at Tufts University report that eating 1 cup of these sweet gems can increase mental energy by up to 45 percent. Credit goes to anthocyanins in the fruit, which activate brain neurons and get your cerebral juices flowing.
We’re looking forward to the weekend’s festivities, and to help ensure that we don’t suffer any morning-after malaise from sipping holiday cocktails, we’re ending the night with an 8-oz. glass of alcohol-free eggnog. The reason: An amino acid in eggs has been shown to speed the breakdown of alcohol and other toxins in the liver, helping to ward off and even ease headaches, queasiness and fatigue. Cheers!
Ease Dry Eyes
Between fall allergies and sitting in front of the computer, our eyes can get pretty irritated. To the rescue: coffee! Researchers reporting in the journal Ophthalmology gave dry eye sufferers 200 to 600 mg of caffeine, then tested their tear volume after 60 and 120 minutes. The result: Everyone experienced an approximately 30 percent increase in tear volume. A cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine, so when our eyes start to feel gritty, we'll sip two cups to help ensure that we get the eye-soothing benefits.
Rev the Zen Hormone
Our new stress Rx: pretzels! According to scientists at the University of Cincinnati, nibbling on ½ cup of these salty bites before a high-pressure event can prevent anxiety symptoms like sweaty palms and a pounding heart—and this stress shield lasts hours at a stretch. The credit goes to sodium, which blocks the release of a powerful anxiety hormone while boosting activity of the soothing hormone oxytocin.
Sweets for Breakfast?
This just may be the sweetest research we've read all year: Women who dig into a big breakfast that includes dessert lose three times more weight than those who forgo A.M. confections. The reason? Enjoying a filling morning meal that ends with a treat prods the brain to boost serotonin production during the day. And as researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond explain, serotonin dampens hunger pangs, cuts carb cravings and speeds fat burning. Pass the cupcakes!
Sooth Brain Waves
Lying in bed wide-eyed when we should be sleeping is so stressful. Fortunately, there's a yummy fix: Munch on a handful of chocolate-covered nuts just before bedtime. According to researchers at Manchester Memorial Hospital in Connecticut, the cocoa and magnesium in this sweet treat work synergistically to boost the brain's production of calming beta waves—an effect that ushers in sleep in 18 minutes or less.
How’s this for sweet news: Unique plant compounds in this spice stimulate insulin activity, increasing the body’s ability to absorb and use sugar. That action helps curb blood-sugar fluctuations by 29 percent—just what we need to stay energized and upbeat during the busy holiday season!
There’s no time to be slowed down by sniffles now that the holiday season is in full swing, so we’re upping our intake of these spuds. In USDA research, sweet potatoes were shown to be nature’s top source of beta-carotene—a nutrient that supercharges the activity of virus-fighting white blood cells to ward off colds and flu. Now that’s tasty medicine!
Poor Man's Antibiotic
For a tasty way to outsmart sniffles and painful sinus, throat and ear infections, flavor meals with garlic. Canadian research suggests that working 1 clove per day into dishes can cut the risk of viral infections by 43 percent. The credit goes to a sulfur compound in garlic (allicin) that prevents the spread of invading germs.
Burn More Fat?
The perfect reason to enjoy chips and guacamole: Eating half an avocado daily can help you shed up to 4 pounds monthly. Researchers say the omega-9 fatty acids in this creamy superfood cause liver cells to burn fat for energy. And for a mood-boosting bonus, omega-9s stimulate the brain to produce feel-good serotonin and dopamine—an effect that can reduce the incidence of blue moods by 31 percent or more!
The countdown to swimsuit season is on, and we have your first step right here: Sip a fresh juice! In a study at the University of California at Davis, people who drank one to two glasses of vegetable juice per day lost four times more weight than juice skippers. Why? The phytonutrient-packed veggies reduce fat-packing cellular inflammation. A recipe to get you started: Juice 2 red apples, 1 large handful of mixed greens (watercress, kale, spinach or whatever you have on hand), 1 small handful of alfalfa sprouts, and 1 small chunk each of raw beet, carrot, celery, broccoli stem, cucumber, zucchini, lemon and ginger. Serve over ice if desired. (Recipe courtesy of nutritionist Jason Vale, author of 7 lbs in 7 Days: Juice Master Diet)
Anyone Screaming Diabetes?
The perfect reason to enjoy a delicious yogurt treat: Getting a daily dose of probiotics helps regulate insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes by 12 percent!
Don't be Tired Today
Winter’s shorter, darker days have us feeling a bit worn-down, but research points to a delicious cure: beef! Savoring 4 oz. of red meat three times per week has been shown to trigger a 39 percent spike in energy, thanks to amino acids and minerals that help the body burn more stored fat for fuel.