By Elsie DavidsonMany people seem to think that eating a lot is what can keep someone in good shape. Despite countless studies proving otherwise, one has to stop by any food court at the mall or at any Mc Donald to see how many customers at their desk devouring the fatly, tasty-but-dangerous meal. The worst and the scariest thing is that healthy food stores do not attract many buyers. To a lot of people, tasty food is the key to an enjoyable moment at a restaurant. Eating a lot can lead to obesity, and obesity can lead to all kind of diseases, including heart disease. Dr. Judith J. Wurtman, a research scientist from the department of brain and cognitive science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the author Managing your Mind and Mood through Food, tells us that “whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you can maintain a high level of energy all day by eating the right food at the right times.” According to Dr. Wurtman, “protein foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, beans, and eggs, contain the amino acid tyrosine. This stimulates the brain to produce norepinephrine and dopamine, two alertness chemicals. When eaten alone or with carbohydrates, such as breads, cereal products, fruits and vegetables, protein foods boost mental alertness and energy.” Another thing that is worth noticing is that according to many nutritionists, it is not recommended to begin your meal with a carbohydrate if you have to go back to work after the meal. The reason is that it may cause drowsiness. Carbohydrates have a kind of acid called tryptophan. This acid can produce serotonin, a calming chemical, which will make you very sleepy. I work at an executive office in Down Town Seattle, and I always take my lunch around midday. If I go to lunch later than usual, I will feel hungrier. The hungrier one is, the higher his temptation for a lot of food, so when I eat a lot to appease my hunger, the only thing I feel like doing afterwards is going to sleep. One can understand how miserable I feel throughout the afternoon. However, if I reason with myself and eat what is right, I go back to work reenergized, not sleepy. Dr. Wurtman says that “all low-fat protein foods produce quick mood-modifying and energy-boosting results. For most people, three to four ounces of the following work well…Low-fat, low-carbohydrate foods, such as shellfish, fish, chicken (without the skin), veal, extra-lean beef, beans and legumes. Also good: Low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, or tofu.” We always feel more energized during the morning hours, but as the day progresses, the energy seems to be slowing down. This phenomenon is called the reality of your “biological clock.” So for someone who has to work all day and who needs the energy to do so vigorously, knowing what to eat is the key.Below is a series of tips Dr. Wutman gives us that I consider as key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle: Breakfast. A nutritious breakfast or a snack before noon keeps you from overeating at lunchtime. For maximum results, eat within three hours of awakening.Best: A breakfast rich in protein foods, high in vitamins and minerals and low in fat.Example: One piece of fresh fruit sliced (or one-half to three-quarters of berries) mixed into eight ounces of plain yogurt…a bran muffin with one or two teaspoonfuls of jelly or diet margarine… one cup of coffee (black or with skim milk).Lunch. Your midday meal will either sustain your morning alertness or accelerate the drop in energy level.Best for you: A high-protein, low-fat, alcohol-free meal.Examples: Three to five ounces of meat, poultry, seafood or fish…or eight ounces of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese…or two ounces of low-fat cheese, such as mozzeralla, ricotta or feta or two eggs. In addition: One piece of sliced fruit ( or one-half to three-quarters cup of berries) and two slices of whole-grain bread.Myth: Pasta at lunch increases your mental and physical energy.Reality: Most athletes load up on pasta before a prolonged endurance eventbecause the body converts it to glycogen, which fuels the muscles…not the brainDinner. Your evening meal comes at a time when your biological rhythms are telling your body to shut down. To stay alert for evening projects, eat high-protein, low-carbohydrates foods.Example: Four to five ounces of skinned, boneless, broiled chicken…one cup stir-fried mixed vegetables (broccoli, water chestnuts, onions, etc.) …three-quarters cup of steamed rice and one fresh orange. Never begin with a carbohydrate—breads, crackers, deep-fried vegetables, etc.Caffeine alert: Your brain cells are most sensitive to caffeine first thing in the morning. Recommended: Limit your daily intake to one or two cups of coffee or tea when you get up (the effect will last up to six hours) and another cup in the middle of the afternoon.Important: Avoid caffeine after 4:30 pm if it keeps you awake at night. However, if you have to work late or are fighting jet lag, a cup of coffee with dinner may keep you going a little longer.Also see Blueberry Meringue TartsHave you tried grilled turkey burgers with avocado mayonnaise?Chipotle Grilled Chicken with Avocado SalsaNote: Elsie Davidson is a nutritionist who lives in Seattle Washington. She wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.
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