The Weird Way to Boost Your Sad Mood

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Have you ever wondered why you feel the urge to blast your “tearjerker” playlist when you’re down in the dumps? Maybe it’s because sad tracks can actually improve your dreary mood— if they also have one other characteristic, according to new research.

In a study published in the Psychology of Music, researchers at the University of Limerick looked at the effect of “Self-Identified Sad Music” on the moods of participant. Motives for choosing certain kinds of songs varied, but the only quality that directly predicted an uptick in the listener’s mood was if a track was considered “beautiful.” Improved attitude has to do with your perception of the aesthetic beauty of the music and the quality of the song. Which means sorrowful ballads can help you indulge your bad day, and simultaneously give you a pick-me-up. (It makes sense that your post-breakup Adele binge was really a form of self-soothing, right?)

The next time you’re feeling blue, consider putting some somber melodies on repeat, as long as you promise to feel better after. Here are 20 sad-but-beautiful songs that may help lift your spirits:

  1. “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert
  2. “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” Taylor Swift
  3. “Someone Like You,” Adele
  4. “Say Something,” A Great Big World
  5. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room,” John Mayer
  6. “Hey Jude,” The Beatles
  7. “Jar of Hearts,” Christina Perri
  8. “The Scientist,” Coldplay
  9. “Tears in Heaven,” Eric Clapton
  10. “When It Rains,” Paramore
  11. “If I Die Young,” The Band Perry
  12. “Charlie Boy,” The Lumineers
  13. “Stay,” Sugarland
  14. “It Will Rain,” Bruno Mars
  15. “The A Team,” Ed Sheeran
  16. “Apologize,” One Republic
  17. “I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston
  18. “Every Breath You Take,” The Police
  19. “Something in the Way,” Nirvana
  20. “Doesn’t Remind Me,” Audioslave

Have you ever tried this sad-song trick to boost your mood? What’s your favorite “downer” tune?

 

Jenna BirchJenna Birch is a health and lifestyle writer. She has written for many web and print publications, including Marie Claire, Runner’s World, mom.me and WomansDay.com. As a nutrition and fitness junkie, she’s a lifelong athlete, major college sports fan and developing yogi — but still can’t resist the allure of an occasional chocolate lava cake. (Everything in moderation, right?) For more, visit her at jennabirch.com or follow her on Twitter.  

4 Wedding Food Trends to Make Your Big Day Healthy & Hip!

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Weddings are a grand celebration, and whether yours is big or small, black tie or DIY, it’s important to have a party that represents you and your love. I encourage my clients to throw a party that represents them as a couple. It’s a big day and as the saying goes, “Food is love!” But that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard with the butter and the trimmings. It’s hip to serve healthy food at your reception now.

If you’ve adopted a healthy eating mantra to get ready for your big day, why not stick with it through your reception? I recently worked with a bride and groom that don’t eat processed meats, so they didn’t serve bacon or sausage at their brunch reception—and none of the guests missed them. Heavy, run-of-the-mill dinner buffets, and fat-laden passed apps are no longer expected or required. In fact, the catering trends for 2014 are looking fresher, healthier, and tastier than ever! Here’s how to break away from the usual sad-looking chicken drowned in cream sauce:

Join the Farm-to-Table Movement When interviewing caterers, ask where they buy their ingredients. Look for companies that source food locally, and use as many fresh, organic ingredients as possible. The demand is there, so the right caterer is there, I promise!

Keep Cocktail Hour Light and Creative I love working with caterers who really care about the food and the overall guest experience. (Event caterers should not serve frozen mini quiches!) Culinary Eye in San Francisco picks up produce from farmer’s markets and sources meat from local ranches to create dishes that are simply delicious. Fresh foods always taste better than processed ones—and no one will miss the old standbys! Here is some of the low-calorie fare Culinary Eye will be serving this summer: canapés of heirloom melon, Thai basil, torn burrata, and balsamic reduction; pea tartar with mint, Meyer lemon olive oil, and shaved Manchego cheese; and compressed cucumber, smoked salmon, and fresh chive on silver spoons. Yum!

Serve Dinner Family-Style This option allows guests to pass platters to each other, so it’s perfect for those big round dinner tables, and it’s a cool way for guest to get to know each other and break bread—literally. Family-style menus also present an opportunity to serve more dishes. Typically, you can choose three main course items and several sides, which means you can have waist-friendly entrées placed on every table. When beautiful salads and bright veggie platters are being passed from guest to guest, everyone will partake. Of course, you can still serve your great-aunt’s famous mac and cheese—but with so many options on the table guests are likely to take a smaller helping so they can try a little of everything.

Beer and Wine Only, Please! This trend in beverage service is here to stay—and I love it!  Not only does skipping hard alcohol cut down on your reception costs, just serving beer and wine also prevents guests from taking shots at the bar and potentially getting rowdy quickly.  Plus, beer and wine offer more heart-healthy antioxidants and often contain fewer calories than mixed drinks made with sugary juices and sodas. This is one idea even a Jameson loving groom can get behind!

 

Christy Daly Matthews 2Christy Daly Matthews is a certified wedding consultant and a busy mom of two boys (both under 5!) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Christy believes in marriage equality, to-do lists, and parties. She enjoys creating a seamless event that celebrates your love, you way. @ChristyDaly has a weakness for stinky cheese; she relies on classes at The Daily Method and a trusty jogging stroller to help her stay fit. (Photo Credit: Gavin Farrington) 

Slam Dunk Your Health Goals with TrackIt

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upwaveYeah, yeah, college basketball season is over, but we’re still in awe of the awesomeness of March Madness. If you paid attention to the tournament (who could have missed it? Go UConn!), you might have noticed ads for  TrackIt, a new health charting tool from upwave. Although our brackets busted early, those promos made us smile, because TrackIt is our newest partner in helping you achieve your health goals.

TrackIt is a unique, personalized health tracking system that gathers information from lifestyle apps, social networking sites, and personal fitness devices, and aggregates the data into a single online dashboard, featuring easy-to-read charts and graphs.

TrackIt allows users to set and monitor their activities and behaviors to help achieve life goals, such as losing weight, decreasing stress, increasing happiness, and improving relationships. The best part: TrackIt syncs with the services you’re already using to reach those goals, including Fitbit, Facebook, Twitter, Runkeeper, and now… MyFitnessPal!

But what does that mean, exactly? The company motto sums it up: “When you track it, you can change it.” Let’s say you want to drop 15 pounds. Using TrackIt you can create a 360-degree look at everything you do—from sleeping, to working out, to tweeting about happy hour. The system pulls in your nutrition information from MyFitnessPal and data from other sources, and then turns all of it (yes, even your tweets!) into fun info graphics. You’re then able to easily see patterns, like that spike in calories from those bar snacks, and then make adjustments. And seeing it all in one spot improves your chances of achieving your slim-down goal—bring on the skinny jeans!

OK, who’s ready to slam-dunk some goals with TrackIt and MyFitnessPal?

 

 

5 Reasons to Eat Chocolate

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If it replaced your daily cholesterol and blood-pressure medications, you’d pop a chocolate pill, right? The idea might seem farfetched, but for an upcoming study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and Mars Inc., researchers will try to prove such tablets have a positive impact on heart health.

Before you get too excited, these pills won’t exactly be candy-coated. Instead, they’re filled with concentrated flavanoids, heart-healthy compounds found in the cocoa bean. Super-high in antioxidant activity, previous studies indicate flavanoids may play a role in improving blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin levels, artery health, and heart health factors. By putting these flavanoids in pill form, scientists will be able to study the effects of the compounds without the associated fat and sugar of chocolate that can lead to weight gain—a risk factor of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions.

Still, when indulging your sweet tooth, you could do worse than a brick of flavanoid-rich dark chocolate. Need more convincing? Here are five good reasons to eat chocolate:

1. Portion (and weight) control When you buy individual bricks of dark chocolate, and eat just one for dessert after a meal, you’re less likely to overdo it than if you were scooping out ice cream or slicing into a cake. “A once-ounce portion of dark chocolate will cost you roughly 150 calories—much better than most cookies and cakes, and lower in fat, too,” says Jackie London, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian in New York City. “And as long as you stick to that one portion, individuals who eat chocolate with increased frequency are shown to have lower BMIs.”

2. Antioxidants Antioxidants abound in cocoa, and they have a laundry list of associated health benefits. Think: anti-inflammatory effects, better immunity, cancer-fighting properties, a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well as better skin integrity and wound healing. What’s not to love?

3. Stress reduction You are not imagining it: your worries do melt away when you eat chocolate. At least, the associated symptoms do. “Some studies have demonstrated that an intake of daily dark chocolate can impact the physical effects of stress on the body,” says London. These range from reducing the urinary excretion of stress hormones to positively affecting the gut.

4. Caffeine It might not be a bad idea to have your daily choco-fix after lunch, possibly as an afternoon pick-me-up at work. “Dark chocolate can contain caffeine, which serves as a central nervous system stimulator, resulting in improved alertness and cognition,” says London.

5. Happiness Whether you’re having a rough day at the office or dealing with a breakup, chocolate really can help. “Dark chocolate, in particular 85% cacao, contains tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that serves as a mood-booster,” says London.

Go ahead: have a serving! Just remember to be choosy about chocolate. London explains the more processed the chocolate, the fewer health benefits, and the worse it is for you. So…

Look for a high percentage of cacao The fewer ingredients in the chocolate, the better. “The problem with a lot of commercial chocolate is food additives and ingredients that you may have otherwise not considered, such as soy lecithin,” London says. “The general rule of thumb is that the more heavily processed any food is, the greater the depletion of health benefits. Therefore, what you’re looking for are ones that are higher in cacao percentage, while still retaining a sweet and satisfying flavor that you will enjoy.” To nab benefits and get great taste, aim for the “sweet spot,” which is 70% (or higher) cacao.

Lose the add-ons There’s a reason Snickers and Twix bars, while chocolatey, are not healthy. “Add-ons rack up the caloric content and decrease the cacao content, thus decreasing the health benefits of the chocolate,” London says. “Avoid additional toffee, caramel, nuts and dried fruits to keep the caloric content at bay.”

Seek organic or fair-trade Seek out organic, fair-trade, and locally-sourced dark chocolate to get maximum health benefits. “These tend to be the ones with the fewest additives, and are essentially close to natural form as possible,” London says.

What do you think? Will this sweet treat land in your shopping cart this week?

 

Jenna BirchJenna Birch is a health and lifestyle writer. She has written for many web and print publications, including Marie Claire, Runner’s World, mom.me and WomansDay.com. As a nutrition and fitness junkie, she’s a lifelong athlete, major college sports fan and developing yogi — but still can’t resist the allure of an occasional chocolate lava cake. (Everything in moderation, right?) For more, visit her at jennabirch.com or follow her on Twitter.  

Veg Out! 7 Meat-Free Protein Sources that Satisfy

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Lorimer Street KitchenIf you’ve checked your Twitter feed in the last few hours, chances are #MeatlessMonday has popped up at least once. The goal of this trend is to kick-start your week with veggies, and become more aware of what you are eating in general, so you can make healthier choices all week. Why go meat-free for the day? Cutting back on your meat intake comes with tons of healthy benefits—to name a few: it decreases your chances of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

If the idea of avoiding meat, even just for one day, leaves you wondering, “How will I get enough protein?” You’re not alone—it’s a worry plenty of people have. But it turns out getting enough of this important nutrient is easier than it seems. There are plenty of plant-based sources of protein that are easy to cook and taste amazing, too.

Tofu & Tempeh Tofu is probably the first food that comes to mind when thinking of vegetarian meat substitutes, and for good reason! Tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans, and they’re incredible sources of protein. Tempeh contains 15 grams of protein per half cup, while tofu offers 20 grams! Both have unique textures that easily absorb the flavor of whatever you are cooking, making them ideal in stir-fries, or seasoned and baked.

Seitan While not as well known as tofu, seitan is a versatile meat substitute made from wheat gluten that packs tons of protein—32 grams per half cup! It’s a great replacement for poultry, and is very simple to cook.

Quinoa Most grains are low in protein, but quinoa has more than 8 grams per cup! Quinoa is delicious as a side dish (try it in place of rice), and works well as a hot or cold breakfast. You can also toss a handful of cooked quinoa into soup or chili to thicken things up.

Beans Beans are little powerhouses of nutrition. High in both protein and fiber, they keep you feeling full longer and provide your body with tons of energy. How much protein are we talking about? 1 cup of kidney beans is loaded with 15 grams of protein, and 1 cup of black beans contains 42 grams! Keep in mind: canned beans tend to be high in sodium, so be sure rinse them before using.

Nuts & Nut Butters Nuts get a bad rap for being fattening, but they are packed with both healthy fats and protein. Most varieties have 5 to 6 grams of protein per ounce, which means you don’t have to eat too many to get a protein boost. To maximize the health benefits, look for unsalted, raw, or roasted nuts, and opt for nut-butters made without any added sugars or oils.

Seeds Like their nutty counterparts, seeds, such as sunflower, sesame and poppy, are filled with protein and healthy fats. Sunflower seeds, for example, have almost 15 grams of protein per cup. They’re delicious toasted and sprinkled on top of a salad.

Greens While green vegetables may not be the protein powerhouses that beans, nuts, and seeds are, ounce for ounce, they still hold their own. Packed with fiber to keep you feeling full, 2 cups of spinach (easy side salad!) contains 2 grams of protein, and a cup of broccoli has 3 grams.

Need help planning a plant-based meal? Try this easy Lemon & White Wine Seitan with Quinoa and Broccolini dish that I created just for MyFitnessPal. (The recipe is in the database for easy logging!)

What do you think of #MeatlessMonday? Are you planning a meat-free meal today?

 

Jennifer Pantin HeadshotWriter, lawyer, and healthy-eating proponent, Jennifer Pantin loves experimenting with new, healthy recipes in her Brooklyn kitchen. Her blog, Lorimer Street Kitchen, is where she shares this passion for food and the belief that healthy recipes can be good for you and delicious, too. Connect with Jennifer and Lorimer Street Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.