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Mood foods and you

As anyone who's ever seen me try to navigate a menu at an Indian restaurant can attest to, I have virtually no tolerance for spicy foods. For years I avoided them like the plague, until a few months ago when someone slipped a few serious Jalapenos onto a deli sandwich I was eating. As my eyes began to water and I gritted my teeth, waiting for the fire to die out, a friend said "Sure it hurts, but doesn't it feel good, too?" And through the pain, I realized he was right: something about that spiciness was tickling my brain. I had a heightened sense of awareness, a boosted mood and, all told, a sense of humor about the jalapeno trick I might not have had a few minutes prior. Suddenly I was hooked: hot peppers are mood food!

Naturally, I wanted to find other mood foods, and figure out how to maximize my brain power via the foods I eat. One thing I learned about food and mood a long time ago was that if I was ever feeling down, an unhealthy lunch of drive-thru burger and fries was an almost instant pick-me-up -- leading to an inevitable crash about 40 minutes later. So Wendy's was definitely off the mood food list. (It's easy to see how eating can become a cycle of addiction for the morbidly obese: you eat to feel better, but then you feel worse than before, the easiest cure for which is just a drive-thru away. Yikes.)

To help navigate the menu of mood foods, here are some tips:

"¢ Want to avoid the post-lunch snoozies? Stay alert with protein: five ounces of grilled chicken at lunch will promote the creation of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain, which will help keep you sharp all afternoon.

Kill stress with foods rich in magnesium, like sesame seeds and spinach. They fight stress hormones and reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Fat-free carbs fight insomnia. Try eating your favorite fat-free carb-heavy snack (like popcorn) a half-hour before bed. It creates serotonin, which relaxes you -- but fat will slow the process.

Get happy with fish. According to Men's Health, "a study in Finland found that people who eat more fish are 31 percent less likely to suffer from depression." Grilled salmon or sushi are a great way to go (and if you have a family history of high cholesterol, like me, the Omega-3 oils in salmon will do your heart good, as well).

Remember the antioxidants ... or you might not remember anything. Your brain is an organ that needs lots of oxygen, so oxidants can really affect its function. Antioxidants like colorful fruits and vegetables help "pick off the free radicals that wear away at your memory."

Which mood foods help you?

Info source: Men's Health

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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