- With Mayo Clinic nutritionists
Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.read biographyclose window
Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.Katherine Zeratsky and Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer K. Nelson, M.S., R.D., L.D., C.N.S.D.
Jennifer Nelson is your link to a better diet. As specialty editor of the nutrition and healthy eating guide, she plays a vital role in bringing you healthy recipes and meal planning.
"Nutrition is one way people have direct control over the quality of their lives," she says. "I hope to translate the science of nutrition into ways that people can select and prepare great-tasting foods that help maintain health and treat disease."
A St. Paul, Minn., native, she has been with Mayo Clinic since 1978, and is director of clinical dietetics and an associate professor of nutrition at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
She leads clinical nutrition efforts for a staff of more than 60 clinical dietitians and nine dietetic technicians and oversees nutrition services, staffing, strategic and financial planning, and quality improvement. Nelson was co-editor of the "Mayo Clinic Diet" and the James Beard Foundation Award-winning "The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook." She has been a contributing author to and reviewer of many other Mayo Clinic books, including "Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight for EveryBody," "The Mayo Clinic Family Health Book" and "The Mayo Clinic/Williams Sonoma Cookbook." She contributes to the strategic direction of the Food & Nutrition Center, which includes creating recipes and menus, reviewing nutrition content of various articles, and providing expert answers to nutrition questions.
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
As a specialty editor of the nutrition and healthy eating guide, Katherine Zeratsky helps you sort through the facts and figures, the fads and the hype to learn more about nutrition and diet.
A Marinette, Wis., native, she is certified in dietetics by the state of Minnesota and the American Dietetic Association. She has been with Mayo Clinic since 1999.
She's active in nutrition-related curriculum and course development in wellness nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and nutrition related to weight management and practical applications of nutrition-related lifestyle changes.
Other areas of interest include food and nutrition for all life stages, active lifestyles and the culinary arts.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served a dietetic internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and worked as a registered dietitian and health risk counselor at ThedaCare of Appleton, Wis., before joining the Mayo Clinic staff.
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May 23, 2009
The food and mood connection
By Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.
Meditation and positive imagery are tools to reduce stress. Let's try some food imagery: Picture a plate with bright green spinach topped with caramel-colored crunchy nuts, moist chunks of lean poultry, and bright orange and red dried fruit. Alongside this beautiful salad, you have a golden brown whole-grain roll and a cool refreshing glass of milk. Top this off with a bit of dark chocolate for dessert. Have I lulled you into a peaceful state of mind?
Can what you eat affect your mood? Can your diet be part of the equation to reduce stress? Possibly. Take a moment to think about what you eat and how it makes you feel.
Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, tryptophan, folate and other B vitamins, low glycemic foods, and chocolate have all been studied to assess their impact on mood. The results are mixed but seem to show an association — though not a direct link — between these foods and improved mood.
Of course, these nutrients and foods are part of a healthy diet. And when you eat a healthy diet, your body reaps the benefits. For example, when you eat fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains throughout the day you keep your body fueled and your blood sugar level on an even keel. And you're getting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Combining carbohydrates and proteins enhances the availability of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter said to have a calming effect and to play a role in sleep.
In addition, simply knowing you are taking care of yourself can boost your mood. And we're all familiar with the power of comfort foods. For example, drinking a glass of milk before bedtime can trigger a comforting memory of your childhood.
Now, think of the foods and behaviors you associate with a stressed-out lifestyle. Do you see someone who is sleep-deprived, gulping down caffeine and shoveling in fast food while on the run? Can you also picture the vicious circle at work here? Stress leads to sleeping less, which leads to reaching for caffeine and sugar for a fix, which is followed by a crash and need for another fix. Add to that skipping regular meals and exercise and maybe using alcohol to unwind. Alcohol and lack of exercise contribute to poor sleep. And so the cycle continues. We know that this way of eating doesn't make us feel good physically or mentally.
Anyone been there and found a way to break out of this cycle? What are your thoughts and observations on food and mood?blog index
- Kemper KJ, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine therapies to promote healthy moods. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2007;54:901.
- Firk C, et al. Mood and cortisol responses following tryptophan-rich hydrolyzed protein and acute stress in healthy subjects with high and low cognitive reactivity to depression Clinical Nutrition. 2009 Apr 2 [Epub ahead of print].
- Young SN. The use of diet and dietary components in the study of factors controlling affect in humans. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. 1993;18:235.
- Parker G, et al. Mood state effects of chocolate. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2006;92:149.