Hot apple pie with ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, mashed potatoes - the warm, nostalgic comfort foods that often come to mind when we think of food and happiness together. Comfort foods make excellent short-term mood boosters, and that carbohydrate spike can feel oh-so-good. For a longer-term mood boost there are some healthier, and surprisingly simple changes you can make to your day-to-day eating habits.
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of certain foods for people who suffer from depression and anxiety. Feeling down, anxious or just a little flat can all be symptoms of a modern diet high in stimulants, sugar and empty carbohydrates. Sometimes easing depression or avoiding mood-drops throughout the day can be as simple as making one or two healthy substitutions - it doesn't have to be a complicated diet-overhaul.
1. Grab a banana on the go
Delicious, creamy and sweet: bananas are a convenient and tasty snack that are also high in stress reducing potassium, mood-boosting 'good' carbohydrates, the serotonin raising amino acid tryptophan, and anxiety reducing vitamin B6. By adding these delicious fruit into your diet each day you can help to combat depression, high blood pressure and insomnia. Try them on their own as a portable snack on the go, or eat them with oats, yoghurt or in a smoothie.
2. Warm up your morning with oats
Try giving the sugary cereals a miss in the morning and set yourself up for the day with a bowl of whole grain oats. Having a low Glycaemic Index (GI), they help to prevent blood sugar drops by releasing energy slowly into our bloodstream rather than in one quick rush - this is an excellent way to prevent mid-afternoon slumps. They also are great for helping to lower cholesterol, gentle on the digestive tract and contain B vitamins, pantothenic acid and folic acid. Try making a warming porridge for those cold winter mornings, or through the summer months soak oats overnight with yoghurt, orange juice, grated apple and your choice of fruits, nuts, seeds and spices to create a tasty and nutritious bircher muesli.
3. Keep some brazil nuts in your office desk drawer
Crunchy, tasty and satisfying - brazil nuts make an excellent on the spot snack for keeping in the office, the car, or around the home. It only takes three Brazil nuts a day to reach the recommended daily intake of selenium which not only can ward off the blues, but also helps with other symptoms of low selenium, such as: irritability, low energy levels and anxiety. Brazil nuts make an excellent high protein snack by themself, or try adding them to muesli, cereal, or in baking.
4. Swap out the milk chocolate for dark
Chocolate can be the ultimate pick-me-up, how often do we see it portrayed all around us as the quick fix solution to sadness, PMS and break-ups. Chocolate doesn't have to be the junk food that we often see it as; unfortunately lots of chocolate bars and snacks on the shelves are loaded up with sugars, high fructose corn syrup and other nasty additives. Next time the sugar cravings hit, try substituting the high sugar varieties with a dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa, the darker the better). A small square of dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, and causes the brain to boost your serotonin levels and release endorphins that will have you smiling again in no time. For a super healthy option, reach for a raw cacao snack bar or add raw cacao to your smoothie.
5. Try brown rice in place of white
Rice is a staple side dish for many classic comfort foods - just think of creamy stroganoff, chicken fried rice or spicy tikka masala. Swap your white rice for brown and notice the difference - opposed to white, brown rice has a low Glycaemic Index, it will keep you feeling fuller for longer and the mood swings at bay. With folic acid, B Vitamins and fibre you can transform your meal into a cholesterol lowering, depression fighting super meal that keeps the digestive system healthy and provides yourself with many trace minerals that the body needs to stay happy and healthy. Use brown rice for a side dish, or swap it in any recipe calling for white rice - even rice pudding!