According to Judith Wurtman and Nina Frusztajer Marquis, who have spent more than 30 years looking into the connection between food, mood, brain and appetite, if we want to lose weight we should include carbohydrates in our diet, not take them out.
We need carbohydrate foods to help the brain make serotonin. Serotonin is key because it regulates mood and helps control appetite.
Carbohydrates provide us with our major source of energy. Some, called simple carbohydrates, come from sweeteners like sugar or honey. Others, called complex carbohydrates, are found in starches, like grains and cereals.
Hello, bread. Welcome back, rice.
If you don't get enough carbohydrates, you won't be able to give your body the energy it needs. They are the only source of energy for your brain and nervous system.
Wurtman, a scientist at the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Marquis have developed their findings in the recently published book, "The Serotonin Power Diet" (Rodale, $24.95).
Before you reach into the freezer for that carton of ice cream, they don't give you license to go mad with your favorite candies and potato chips. You can only consume them at specific times of day in carefully calculated amounts. Otherwise, you will put on weight.
The carbohydrates you consume must be fat free or low in fat. Fat slows the serotonin-making process. Besides, it makes you feel lethargic, and the sofa and a bowl of potato chips will develop an irresistible appeal. Nor should they contain protein because it interferes with the brain's ability to make serotonin.
You have to eat the right foods at the right times. This will be when your serotonin levels are naturally lower, which seems to be late afternoon or early evening, when people can tend to crave a quick boost from a gooey lemon bar, a hot chocolate or a sandwich.
While you can't have those, you can have a fat-free cookie or a few pretzels. Then later on for dinner, the authors write on buzzle.com, you can "dine on low fat carbohydrate dishes like pasta marinara sprinkled with parmesan cheese or a large bowl of butternut squash soup with crusty bread followed by fat free hot chocolate and vanilla wafers. This afternoon and evening comfort food soothes the appetite and makes you feel good when otherwise you would suffer from cravings and a bad mood."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the American Heart Association and others, recommend that adults should get 45 percent to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent to 35 percent from fat and 10 percent to 35 percent from protein.
"The Serotonin Power Diet" is divided into three different eating phases: the first when dieters eat three meals and three high-carb snacks a day. The snacks are reduced to two a day for the second stage, when the protein-carbohydrate balance of the meals is altered to take that reduction into account. The final phase reduces the snacks to one a day but increases the choice. Given that the snacks in the first phase include popcorn, crunchy cereal and fat-free frozen yogurt, the diet sounds less of a deprivation than most.
Half a cup of cooked rice contains around 108 calories and 15 essential nutrients. Here is a recipe from the book.
-- Asian Rice and Shrimp Salad
-- Jasmine or medium-grain rice, cooked according to package directions (Women: 1½ cups, men: 2 cups)
-- Cooked shrimp, chicken or tofu, warm or cool (Women: 2 ounces, men: 4 ounces)
-- ¼ cup fat-free unsweetened coconut milk
-- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
-- 1 teaspoon canola oil
-- 3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
-- ½ tablespoon chopped salted peanuts
-- Combine the rice and cooked shrimp in a bowl.
-- In a separate bowl, combine the coconut milk, vinegar, oil and basil and then add it to the rice and shrimp mixture.
-- Toss to combine and sprinkle with chopped peanuts before serving.
-- Serve with steamed bok choy or Chinese cabbage topped with teriyaki or soy sauce.