Valentine’s Day and the Science of Food and Mood

Valentine’s Day and the Science of Food and Mood

Food & Drink

Valentine’s Day and the Science of Food and Mood

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Ever wonder if chocolate really can put you in the mood…for love?

We had a chance to visit with Melinda Lund, MS, RD, a medical nutrition therapist, in an effort to explore food and mood.

Valentine’s Day, after all, is just ahead and many of us would like to set the right mood on that particular holiday while dining with our special someone.

Lund, as a matter of fact, was scheduled to speak about the subject of food and mood at a Valentine-themed event at the Discovery Center that evening. The center is usually populated with busy young kids exploring all kinds of education-based activities and fun, but on this night adults would be the ones learning and having the fun. Appetizers, champagne and chocolate were to be sampled, and “mood music” would be played in addition to Lund’s interactive presentation.

Proteins are one kind of food that effect mood, Lund says. “Things like meat, eggs, and cheese help to boost alertness,” she says. Well, that’s important when you’re having dinner with your sweetheart, I guess. You need to be alert enough to carry on an intelligent conversation and not drift off into a daydream.

“Foods high in carbohydrates, such as potatoes, are ‘feel good foods’,” Lund explains. But they should be eaten with caution. “If you consume too many carbs—especially those with lots of white flour and white sugar,” you’ll get the spike-and-crash effect as your blood sugar goes up quickly, then comes crashing down later. Better to go with whole grains, fruits and veggies, she says.

“The key is balance,” Lund says. “Have some protein, some carbs, and a reasonable amount of fat.”

Some foods can even help to ward off depression, Lund explains.  “Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, flaxseed, and walnuts, have been shown to be effective against depression, she says. “And some preliminary studies suggest a possible correlation between folic acid deficiency and depression. Foods that are high in folic acid include things like orange juice and cooked spinach.”

Yep, that’s important. Don’t want to be depressed during that romantic dinner at La Bistro Pierre.

What About Chocolate?

OK, let’s get to the important stuff. Namely, chocolate. Does everyone’s favorite sweet really offer an aphrodisiac effect? “Yes,” Lund says, “chocolate is one of those things that can put you in the mood for love.” But she says it’s important to choose dark chocolate, with at least a 70 percent cocoa content. The cocoa contains theobromine, a mild stimulant, which is also found in some other foods.

“We’re all looking for excuses to eat more chocolate, but there really are mood altering compounds in it that give you that happy, pleasurable feeling,” she says. Especially when the consumption of the chocolate is part of the “event,” she explains. The event being, for example, the Valentine meal you’re sharing with your sweetheart.

So, what’s the ideal Valentine’s meal, we asked, if we’re wanting to set the proper mood on V-Day? Lund suggests fish for the protein—perhaps a nice grilled salmon; for the carbohydrate, she recommends rice; accompanied by some nice roasted vegetables; and a glass of red wine—which is great for heart health and for lightening the mood; for dessert: chocolate-covered strawberries—dark chocolate, of course.

Mmm, sounds good. I think I’m getting in the mood for…dinner.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

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