Your Pumpkin Spice Latte might be a downer! Eat these to feel your best all season long.
As the days get longer, many of us are feeling even more tired, so we reach for a coffee or energy drink for a quick boost. But a new study warns that your Pumpkin Spice Latte may be backfiring as caffeine inhibits the absorption of several minerals, especially iron. And guess what the primary symptom of low iron is? Yep, fatigue. This isn't to say you can never enjoy your java again, but if you want your comfort food to be comforting in the right way, here are a few pro tricks from Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a nutritional biochemist at Harvard and author of The Secret of Vigor—How to: Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy.
Eat: Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, contain lignans and healthy fatty acids that together can induce a mild relaxation effect, Talbott explains. Plus, nothing helps take the edge off a hate-fest like a satisfying crunch.
Eat: For days when you need a quick pick-me-up, pop a few tasty grapes. "All types of grapes contain antioxidant compounds called OPCs (oligomeric proanthocyanins) which improve mental and physical energy levels," Talbott says. But if you're having one of thosedays and need a serious boost, he says an even richer source of OPCs is New Zealand pine bark extract and has been studied for improving “brain energy” and ADHD. You can find it in tea or supplement form.
Eat: Time to break out the extra-dark chocolate, doctor's orders! According to Talbott, the good stuff contains theobromine to calm you down and flavonoids to boost your immune system (stress can make you more vulnerable to illness). He even gives the A-OK to skip the 100 percent bitter variety and go for something tasty as a small amount of sugar can help satiate those sweet cravings brought on by the stress hormone, cortisol.
Eat: The day after a heavy lifting workout, make sure to add some pineapple to your protein smoothie. The tasty tropical fruit contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain to help reduce inflammation and control pain and swelling.
Drink: Just holding a mug of hot green tea can be relaxing, but Talbott explains the drink also contains theanine, an amino acid with proven calming powers.
Drink: Now's the perfect time to get your Starbucks fix. As the aforementioned study showed, going overboard with the coffee is no bueno but Talbott says to order a small latte with one shot of espresso and one percent milk. The combination of the stimulating 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine plus the relaxing small peptides (protein chains) in the milk will help to increase neuron activity in the brain, without overstimulation. He promises it will be just enough to help you get out of a sour mood, but not enough to make you feel jittery and tense.