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Another Reason to Give Up Processed Food–You’ll Be Nicer!


Can junk food make you mean? An interesting new study from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine says yes. Researchers studied the diets and behaviors of nearly 1,000 men and women and found that a higher intake of trans fat was significantly tied to an increase in aggression and irritability.

Previous studies have linked trans fat to heart disease, infertility, cancer, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and obesity so avoiding it is a good move for your health and your mood. Check out my previous post about how to avoid the trans fat trap, to learn what popular foods it lurks in and the only true way to know if a food contains this unwanted, and unnecessary, additive.

As for eating tactics that can have the opposite effect, here are four tried and true eat-to-be-nice strategies:

Avoid refined sugar. Added sugar, not the kind bestowed by Mother Nature like naturally sweet fruit, but the types put into processed foods like soda, candy, and cookies, is known to wreak havoc with blood sugar. The brief spike, followed by a crash (after insulin moves in to clear the sugar from your blood), can trigger mood swings, headaches, and irritability.

Keep caffeine in check. In people who drink caffeine in moderation and are getting enough sleep, this stimulant can boost mental alertness. If you’re fatigued and run down, caffeine can worsen your mood and intensify stress.

Drink and eat your water. Produce is high in water and chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which all help to counter stress and anxiety. In a British food and mood study, over 70 percent of the participants reported that increasing their intake of water and produce improved their moods. And a quarter said that these simple dietary changes reduced both panic attacks and anxiety.

Brew some tea. The relaxed sensation you feel while leisurely sipping a spot of tea isn’t just in your head. Research shows that tea drinking can reduce blood pressure, enhance both mood and immunity, and tea’s antioxidants fight the effects of stress.

So what’s your take on this topic? Have you ever felt more aggressive after downing a fast food meal or junk food with trans fat? Is your mood elevated when you eat your fruits and veggies? Please tweet your thoughts to @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.


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