If the winter blues, also known Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sneak up on you after the holidays, try these 18 mood-boosting healthy snack foods to turn your frown upside down.
The key to a good mood boosting snack is finding quick and easy sources of B12, folic acid, selenium, vitamin D or omega-3 fatty acids.
- B12 and folic acid may prevent disorders of the central nervous system, mood disorders and dementia. Folic acid is usually found in beans and greens, while B12 is found in meats, fish, poultry and dairy.
- Selenium is a trace mineral that acts as an antioxidant in the body. Antioxidants help clear the body of free radicals that may be associated with oxidative stress on the brain, leading to mild and moderate depression. Additionally, selenium reduces risk of some cancers and inflammatory conditions.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can lower your risk of depression. Omega-3s are a good fat needed for normal brain function. But, your body can't make omega-3s on its own, so you need healthy food sources of the fats, such as freshwater fish. Vegetarian or vegan? No worries; try these vegan sources of omega-3s.
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with mood disorders including PMS, SAD and depression. Eat foods rich in vitamin D and, when possible, top it off with sunlight, which helps the body absorb vitamin D.
Find a mix of your favorite snacks among these 16 quick and easy sources of mood-enhancing vitamins and minerals.
Pick-Me-Up Mixed Nuts and Fruits
Combine a pick-me-up mix of nuts and dried fruits or berries for a wintertime snack. A mix of Brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate chips and dried banana chips drizzled with a bit of honey or molasses brings in several minerals that can improve your outlook.
- Bananas: Grab a banana by itself or add it to your morning cereal or yogurt to enjoy the benefits of bananas. Bananas are full of magnesium, which reduces anxiety and improves sleep. And they also contain potassium, which improves circulation delivering more oxygen to your brain. Additionally, the natural sugars provide a quick energy boost, while a banana's fiber content makes the boost last longer than energy from simple carbohydrates. Bananas were previously thought to also boost brain seratonin because of the seratonin and tryptophan amino acid content. But recent National Institutes of Health studies found consuming seratonin and tryptophan from foods doesn't correlate to mood enhancement like consuming a purified tryptophan supplement does.
- Brazil Nuts: Eating just three Brazil nuts per day can provide your recommended daily dose of selenium.
- Walnuts: The protein, omega-3s and vitamin E in walnuts all keep your body energetic. Walnuts are also high in magnesium and are a great on-the-go snack for regulating blood sugar and preventing mood swings.
- Dark Chocolate: Cocoa is a great source of phenylethylamine, which stimulates seratonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a natural antidepressant. Don't overdo the chocolate bars though, as caffeine and sugar can be depressants. And stick with chocolates with at least 70 percent cocoa. Dark chocolate also contains potent antioxidants.
- Sunflower Seeds: Also full of phenylethylamine, sunflower seeds make a great snack on their own, or in combination with mixed nuts.
- Berries: Berries, particularly blueberries and strawberries, reduce inflammation (which can keep your brain functioning properly) and are high in antioxidants.
- Molasses: Blackstrap molasses contains vitamin B6, selenium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, and high amounts of iron.
- Honey: Natural honey is a true super sweetener; it's filled with B vitamins, folic acid, iron, and manganese, and compounds like quercetin and caffeic acid, which fight fatigue, depression and anxiety.
- Seafood: Seafood and shell fish is high in selenium.
- Fish: Fresh water salmon is a great source of omega-3s.
- Tomato: Tomatoes are the best source of lycopenes, a potent antioxidant.
- Spinach: Dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, collard and kale are chock full of folic acid, antioxidants and magnesium.
- Avocado: Avocado's high concentration of healthy fats make it the perfect fruit snack or salad topping.
A simple Fruit Salad of grapes, walnuts and sliced bananas with a bit of honey and lime juice can stave off mood swings and help you sleep.
- Grapes: Grapes and grape juice are filled with antioxidants. Grapes are also a perfect late night snack, since they're high in melatonin, a natural sleep aid.
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat is high in B vitamins, which improve energy and mood.
- Millet: Millet and other whole grains are complex carbohydrates that help your body regulate blood sugar and avoid mood swings.
- Garlic: Antioxidant properties and high levels of selenium give garlic a key role in regulating your moods. The benefits of garlic are particularly seen when consumed raw.
- Asparagus: Five spears of asparagus can net you an entire day's allowance of folic acid.
Whole grains and complex carbohydrates---including oats, buckwheat and millet---can all improve your mood. Enhance your favorite muffins by swapping in some of these whole grain flours in place of about one quarter to one half of the recipe's flour.
Keep in touch with Kristi on Twitter @Veggieconverter.