When you're feeling down, it's easy to be tempted by snacks that are high in sugar or quickly absorbed carbohydrates, such as cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets and crisps.
This is because carbs and sugar can provide a quick boost – not only in energy, but also in serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’). But his benefit will only last an hour or two, leaving you feeling down again and reaching for more sugar.
To achieve a healthier balance, choose for snacks that contain a good combination of slow-releasing (unrefined) carbohydrates, proteins, and if possible, some healthy fats.
Top six mood-boosting snacks:
- A slice of smoked salmon on two oatcakes. The salmon provides protein and essential fats, while the oatcakes provide slow-releasing carbohydrates.
- Half an avocado on a slice of rye toast – add flavour with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some black pepper. Avocado is an excellent source of healthy fats which, amongst other benefits, can help to slow down absorption of the carbohydrates.
- Raw carrot or cucumber sticks with hummous. Made from chickpeas, hummous is a good combination of carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats.
- One or two oatcakes with a teaspoon of a nut butter such as almond or walnut butter (avoid peanut butter).
- An apple with a small handful of pumpkin seeds or other raw nuts or seeds. The natural sugars in the apple are balanced by the protein and healthy fats in the seeds.
- An organic, plain yoghurt with some pumpkin seeds and/or berries such as blueberries.
Slow-releasing carbohydrates can provide balanced energy and serotonin production. Eating protein will help to moderate the absorption of the carbohydrates and also provides the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine – the raw materials for production of the mood-stabilising neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Contrary to what we may think, eating fruit on its own may not be the ideal snack as it can be high in sugar and provide little in the way of protein or fats to slow down the absorption of the sugars.
Advice from Cassandra Barns, nutritonist at NutriCentre.
There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.