Potatoes Not Prozac
This is a brief, vastly oversimplified look at the book by this name. It outlines a food and lifestyle program that was originally designed to help alcoholics, and was found to have other benefits as well. Balancing your intake of protein and slow carbs turns out to have mood-stabilizing and happiness-boosting effects, so I'll outline the key steps here:
1. Eat enough protein for your body size throughout the day, at 3-4 reasonably timed meals.
2. Eat a slow carb before going to bed.
3. Enjoy the vivid dreams, and eat less of the slow carbs if the dreams are too vivid for your taste.
It turns out that dreaming is a sign of sufficient serotonin, and many who are prone to depression report no dreams, or at least no memorable dreams. Some describe it as "just a feeling" rather than actual images, or dreams without color. If you prefer your dreams this way and aren't interested in boosting your mood, then you can stop here. If you're interested, read on for the details.
1. Enough protein for a person not attempting to build muscle mass, but looking for mood stabilizing and other positive metabolic effects, seems to be at least .5 grams per pound of body weight. So for someone whose ideal weight is about 150 pounds, like me, that would be about 75 grams of protein per day. This is more than you'll get without paying attention, unless you like meat. The author of the book recommends eating 1/3 of your daily protein at breakfast, within an hour of waking up, which she has found to be important in treating addiction. For those with less critical considerations, generally getting a good amount of protein throughout the day seems to be sufficient, without regard to even distribution or specific timing. The goal for these purposes, is to get a good amount of tryptophan circulating in your blood from the metabolism of protein.
2. A couple of hours after dinner, eat the slow carb of your choice. This could be carrots, a potato, Ezekiel bread. Ideally it's a slow carbohydrate with perhaps a bit of fat and not any protein; a potato was chosen for the book's title because it's a filling slow carb that many people like.
3. Enjoy better sleep and adjust the amount of slow carbs as needed. If you're not used to vivid dreams, you may find a full potato to be too stimulating (i.e. too much tryptophan got into your brain with the carbs)
For the teenagers who've taken my health classes, vivid dreams are more of a party trick, but adults find the improved sleep and happier mood in the morning to be a great life benefit. It's a nice way to adjust your brain chemistry because it's easier to try and harder to mess up, compared with medications or supplements. Some people use this technique simply for better sleep. If you try it, please share your experience!