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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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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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