Top Six Weight Loss Snacks That Give Your Mood A Boost
Don’t let motivational “fitspiration” posters and graphics fool you. There is nothing more depressing than being on a diet, particularly in the early days of any diet regime. If you are a junk loving, soda guzzling, carb fiend like me, the early days entail a whole lot of cravings, mood swings, brain fog, and a general lethargy that makes you want to do nothing but mope around in a miserable stupor, fantasizing about cinnamon rolls and a large caramel macchiato.
As someone who has suffered from an intense love-hate relationship with food (love food, hate how it makes my clothes shrink), it took me a lot of time and discipline to wean myself off my dependency on food as a way to tackle my emotions. Happy? Let’s celebrate with food. Sad? Here’s some comfort food. Angry? Let’s have a drink to calm down.
It was only when I realized the dangerous level of dependency I had on energy drinks and chocolate bars to get through even a normal day that I reviewed my food decisions. It’s been a long and difficult journey, but by making some sensible substitutions, I am healthier than I have been in a long time. While I still turn to food to deal with my emotions, there are healthy alternatives that give my mood the boost it needs without messing up my diet goals.
If my situation sounds familiar, don’t worry. It is not impossible to get out of your toxic relationship with the wrong kinds of food. Here are a few of my favorite healthy snacks for weight loss that lift your mood without packing on the pounds.
1. Dark Chocolate
Don’t be surprised. This is not an error. Dark chocolate is naturally rich in certain compounds that stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain that provide an instant boost to your mood. Compounds like caffeine, theobromine and N-acylethanolamine are also present in dark chocolate which have a similar effect on your mood as cannabinoids.
Dark chocolate is also high in flavonoids which increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health. It’s high hedonic rating, which is related to the pleasurable taste, texture, and smell of chocolate, also regulates mood. However, you should avoid milk chocolate or other sugar laden variants as they defeat the purpose. Dark chocolate is higher in flavonoids and lower in sugar, but you should still restrict your intake to a couple of small squares of 70% (or more of cocoa solids), as it is still a high ticket item in terms of calories.
2. Nuts and Seeds
I can’t tell you how many times having a small baggy of my favorite nuts and seeds has saved me from falling off the wagon. When the diet doldrums hit, and you want nothing more than to hit the vending machine, nuts can save your life! Nuts and seeds are rich in plant based proteins, fibre, and healthy fats. Owing to their tryptophan content, they can trigger the production of serotonin in your body, which in turn can boost your mood. Always keep an assortment of cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds in your bag to stave off cravings in a healthy way. Certain nuts, like Brazil nuts, pine nuts, and almonds, are great sources of zinc and selenium. Zinc and selenium are essential for brain function, and deficiency in these minerals is linked to higher rates of depression.
There is a reason why coffee is the world’s most popular drink. Not only is it oh-so-good, coffee also contains numerous compounds, like caffeine and chlorogenic acid, which are responsible for giving you a mood boost. Caffeine in coffee prevents adenosine from attaching to brain receptors this preventing tiredness, consequently increasing alertness and attention span. It also increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are both mood-boosting neurotransmitters.
Essentially, it makes the world a happier place. However, you should stay away from coffee “drinks,” as the added sugar in these boutique coffee creations nullifies the benefits. So, stick to black and you won’t go back.
While not recommended if you are on a keto or other high protein regimen, a couple of bananas often have the same effect on your body as an energy drink, only healthier. Being a great source of vitamin B6 and prebiotic fiber, bananas are excellent at keeping your blood sugar levels and moods stable; they may even turn a frown upside down. The high levels of vitamin B6 in bananas synthesize dopamine and serotonin which, as mentioned earlier are feel-good neurotransmitters.
5. Fermented Foods
No, don’t break out the beer and wine. I’m talking about fermented foods like yogurt, cheese, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. These fermented foods can help improve gut health and mood. Fermented foods contain live bacteria that help your digestive tract function better.
The fermentation process also generates probiotics which support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and increase the levels of serotonin. Serotonin affects mood, stress response, and sexual drive in a positive way. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all fermented foods contain probiotics and help your cause, like beer, breads, and wine, so avoid those as much as possible.
Last but not least on my favorite healthy snacks list are berries. Berries are like nature’s candy — bright, attractive, and delicious. I just love them! Be it blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, chances are that if they have “berry” in their name, I adore them. In addition to being a healthy low calorie, low fat snack, berries are chock full of antioxidants and phenolic compounds. These help reduce inflammation associated with mood disorders and depression, and also combat oxidative stress, hence the name anti-oxidants.
Berries also contain anthocyanin, a natural pigment that is responsible for the color of berries. Anthocyanins reduce risk of depression symptoms. Packed in a little box, berries make the ideal snack, and frozen berries are excellent for healthy smoothies that help satiate and satisfy cravings.
Sadaf Shamsi is a teacher, trainer, and writer. She describes herself as opinionated, optimistic to a fault, addicted to making lists, a YA fiction buff, a proponent of all things caffeine, and a mother of two.