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How many times have you found yourself burrowing into the very bottom of a Baskin Robbins tub after a bad breakup? Or caught your gob stuffed with a burger in the middle of a stressful day? Food might not fill that void in your heart, but it can help you perk up enough to pick up the pieces of a shattered heart or the yellings of an erratic employer to start afresh.

The bottom line: Good food gives you hope. You just need to eat the right kind." The key to understanding the connection between the food we eat and our mood and levels of alertness lies in knowing about how the brain functions," says consultant neurologist Dr Rajesh Kumar, Rockland Hospitals, New Delhi.

"The brain communicates by chemical substances passed from one nerve cell to the next. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are made in the brain from the food we eat. The neurotransmitters that are most sensitive to diet and influential in affecting the mood are serotonin, nor epinephrine and dopamine."

Dopamine and nor epinephrine are alertness chemicals to help us think and react faster or get motivated. Serotonin is a calming chemical to dissipate stress and tension.

Foods that cure depression

A study in the Alternative Medicine Review found a fifth of depressed people lack B6. And there's nothing fi shy about this bit: "Tuna supplies approximately 60 per cent of your daily allowance of B6," says New Delhi-based nutritionist Dr Sonia Kakar.

Dark chocolate
Chalk one up for chocolate: "It releases pleasure enhancing endorphins into the brain and contains phenyl ethylamine, a stimulant associated with love," says Dr Kumar. The higher the cocoa content, the better you feel. So head for the darkest.

Pack on muscle with a smile: High in protein and fibre, hummus helps avoid blood sugar fluctuations with a slow, sustained release of glucose into the blood stream. "Depression and mood swings are related to poor blood sugar control, so scarf this now!" says Dr Kakar.

These nuts will put a smile on your dial. "They're an excellent source of Omega-3s which help brain cells and mood-lifting neurotransmitters function properly," says Ritika Samaddar, head of dietetics, Max Healthcare, New Delhi.

Foods that up your sex drive

Not only do they sport a happy colour, they also contain vitamin B6 that ups serotonin levels. Apart from this, they contain an alkaloid bufotenine that ups your sex drive. Feeling happier reading this aren't you?

If your relationship's facing a libido-level slump, spice it up, literally! Chilli's capsaicin content gets the heart pumping, triggering reactions as sweaty and similar to when you're having sex. Instead of a pungent dish, try Lindt's Chilli chocolate to really heat up your nights.

"Almonds are often associated with health, but most of us don't know that they are packed with essential fats that regulate prostaglandins, required for the production of sex hormones," says Samaddar.

According to Chicago's Smell and Taste Treatment Research Foundation, vanilla can boost penile blood flow. So bury into a tub before date night, not post breakup!

Foods that soothe rage

This juicy fruit contains citrulline and arginine, chemicals that trigger production of nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes your body's blood vessels. Watermelon is also reputed to be the only natural answer to Viagra. And you don't even need a prescription!

Ginseng tea
"Ginseng has been shown to improve the body's response to stress and decrease feelings of anxiety," says Dr Kakar. Sipping it slowly will also give you time to think over your initial reaction, which might have worse repercussions later.

Slip some into a mutton curry when you've banged your car on the way back home. A study in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience showed kidneys contain high levels of phosphatidylserine, which are associated with reducing stress levels and lifting mood.

The omega-3 fatty acid in salmon, called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), isn't just good for your skin. Studies show people who eat ample amounts of DHA have a much lower incidence of depression, aggressiveness and hostility.

Foods that wake you up

"Lemons have a wide variety of uses from curing asthma to liver stimulation, says Ekta Tandon, dietician at dailydiet. in. "To wake up, smell the fruit or lemon oil or suck on a lemon drop—it's an instant refresher, which is why it's a common base for room fresheners and scents.

This green contains boron, which is responsible for hand-eye co-ordination, attention and short-term memory. Boron-rich foods also maintain healthy bone and blood-sugar levels.

A recent Journal of Alzheimer's Disease research shows apples protect the brain from memory loss and senility due to their quercetin content. "They're almost as effective as caffeine as the fructose content doesn't bring you back to a slump like coffee would, says Dr Kakar.

Orange juice
"We eat oranges or drink OJ in the morning to wake us up, says Dr Kakar. "Oranges contain vitamin C that beats fatigue to keep us active throughout the day. Try eating one instead of drinking the juice to keep calories at bay.
Reproduced From Men's Health. © 2011. LMIL. All rights reserved.

By Aashmita Nayar | MensHealth