How to diet without getting all cranky

It is possible to cut calories and lose weight without constantly feeling hungry and irritable, dietitians say. Here's how:

  • Eat "good" carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates boost levels of serotonin, a hormone produced in the brain that boosts mood. Get these nutrients from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Lose weight gradually. Suddenly slashing calories will make you very grouchy. Most people should aim to drop no more than a pound or two a week.
  • Go for variety. Your body and brain need foods from each of the major groups — proteins, carbohydrates and fats — to maintain proper chemical balances. Many dieters try to cut out fat; instead, focus on healthy sources such as salmon, nuts, avocado and olive or canola oil.
  • Stay away from junk. Sugary foods and drinks create a sudden burst of energy followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar, in turn, causes irritability, mood swings and problems with focus.
  • Eat often. Fasting leads to low blood-sugar levels. Stay on an even emotional keel by eating small portions every four to five hours; never let yourself get too hungry.
  • Get enough fiber. This substance, found in plants and whole-grain cereals and breads, slows absorption of sugar from the bloodstream and can help prevent mood swings. Fiber-rich foods also keep you feeling full longer.
  • B-vitamins. Studies suggest low levels of folic acid and vitamin B12, in particular, may be linked to depression. Good choices include lentils, oatmeal, broccoli, sunflower seeds, shellfish, low-fat dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Exercise. Like healthful foods, regular workouts boost the brain's production of serotonin. Getting out in the sunlight is even better.

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