4/16/2013 10:00 PM ET|
Eat these foods, balance your budget
Before you tackle your finances, you may want to eat a tuna sandwich -- on whole-grain bread -- and wash it down with skim milk. Really.
Food holds a lot of power.
We look to it for comfort after a bad day at the office, to mend a broken heart and even to nurse us back to health. Since it can hold such sway over our emotions, well-being and health, it only makes sense that it could influence our money, too.
What you eat when you're gearing up to pay bills, balance your budget or have "the money talk" with your partner could make a difference.
We spoke with Susan Albers, Psy.D., the author of "Eating Mindfully" and a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, to examine how our food choices can influence our financial decisions. According to Albers, certain foods affect brain and body chemistry, so eating right can help you focus on setting a budget, keep your cool during a heated financial discussion and manage stress while paying bills.
Planning to tackle one of these major financial tasks? Try eating one of these "superfoods" at least 20 to 30 minutes beforehand.
Paying your bills
Worrying over whether you can make ends meet revs up production of adrenaline and stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. When that happens, your heart rate and blood pressure spike, and your brain goes into overdrive -- which makes it tough to focus on your finances. Thankfully, these foods can help you stay calm and cool in the face of your bills:
Black tea. "Studies have indicated that people feel calmer, and have lower levels of cortisol after drinking a cup of black tea," says Albers. British researchers found that people who drink black tea are able to de-stress better than those who wet their whistle with other teas and beverages.
Brazil nuts and cashews. They're high in zinc -- a deficiency of which has been linked to both anxiety and depression. And which monthly task has the unfortunate tendency to cause anxiety? That's right: paying bills. So use zinc to keep calm.
Oatmeal. "It's great for regulating your blood sugar," says Albers. "And maintaining level blood sugar helps you to remain calm and even-keeled." Instead of eating a candy bar that only provides a temporary boost of energy, consider a bowl of oatmeal, which will sustain you for hours.
Having the 'money talk'
Whether you're moving in together, getting engaged or just making sure you're on the same page, all of that talking can take a toll on your energy -- and ramp up your stress levels. Combat the side effects of this difficult discussion with these foods:
Spinach salad. According to Albers, leafy greens are filled with folic acid, antioxidants and magnesium -- "all of which are linked to a good mood." That upbeat mood will come in handy when you and your mate sit down to discuss spending habits. "Add a serving of skinless grilled chicken, which is a good source of tyrosine and protein," she says. "These nutrients increase production of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine -- brain chemicals that are known to increase alertness and energy."
Tuna. "This fish is a good source of vitamins B6 and B12," says Albers, explaining that B6 helps to maintain a healthy balance of serotonin, which regulates mood and fights depression. "B12 helps form GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a calming brain chemical."
Setting and reviewing your budget
Endurance, energy and stamina are needed to win this marathon. Setting a budget takes time to analyze your income and expenses, not to mention focus and attitude in order to actually stick to your plan. These power-boosting foods will supply a healthy dose of energy needed to get you to the finish line:
Whole grains. Old-fashioned and steel-cut oats, whole wheat, cracked wheat, bulgur, barley, quinoa, brown rice, wild rice and popcorn are complex carbohydrates, which cause the body to absorb sugar more slowly from the foods you eat. "The fiber in complex carbs promotes a slow, gradual rise in blood sugar," says Albers. "Since glucose is the brain's main source of fuel, it's important to keep blood sugar even -- during a crash, you'll feel tired and irritable and you'll have trouble concentrating." Tip: Look for foods that include whole grains as one of the first three ingredients.
Skim milk. It's a good source of protein that "helps the body build and repair muscles, nerves and tissues, which are great for boosting brain power and energy levels."
Applying for a credit card
Whether you're evaluating a new offer that arrived in the mail or thinking of opening a store card when you hit the mall, a clear head will help you make the best financial decision. Where can you find the clarity to weed through the fine print and make the right choice?
Salmon. "This fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids," says Albers. "High levels of omega-3 are associated with performing well on tests of mental acuity. It improves communication between brain cells, which helps you learn better and concentrate, plus it improves your mood." Albers also recommends ground flaxseed and walnuts as alternate sources of omega-3.
Water. When it comes to promoting brainpower, which affects clarity, Albers says that hydration is key. "Your body can misinterpret dehydration as hunger. Every cell in your body needs it to thrive, and your brain cells are no exception," she says.
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