Sometimes when you’re struggling with stress, anxiety and depression, all you want to do is make the pain go away with cookies, ice cream, chocolate and hamburgers. However, in the back of your mind you know that eating unhealthy food will only make you feel worse. Fortunately some health experts have some ideas for snacks that will leave you satisfied and won’t harm your health.
Trudy Scott, a food mood expert, certified nutritionist and president of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, said in an email that eating consistent meals is essential for women with depression and anxiety.
“It’s often crucial to keep blood sugar levels even, and the best way to do this is to eat three meals (including breakfast) and two, maybe even three healthy snacks a day,” Scott said.
Some snacks she suggests for women with depression and anxiety include fresh fruit, a boiled egg, grass-fed beef jerky, raw baby carrots, ornamental green/yellow/red peppers, hummus, a chicken drumstick or wing, cans of sardines, oysters, salmon and pumpkin seeds.
“Pumpkin seeds are a great source of tryptophan and zinc, both of which help improve mood,” Scott said.
Dr. Nicole Farmer, a fellow in integrative medicine at Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, said in an email that she encourages women to eat almonds, pineapple slices and chia seed bars.
“Almonds are filled with healthy fats and fiber,” Farmer said. “They are also packed with magnesium, which not only helps to convert carbs into energy, but magnesium also has an anti-depressant effect.”
Pineapple also has certain health benefits.
“Pineapple packs a good amount of carbs but also has enough fiber and nutrients to help prevent a sugar-induced crash,” Farmer said. “Pineapples are also a great source of thiamine. Thiamine has been found in research studies to have a positive association with women reporting feeling more energetic and [having] a better mood.”
Chia seeds might seem like an unusual choice, but she proposes that they also have an anti-depressant effect. The bars are also made with amaranth, a type of grain.
“[Chia seeds] are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and omega-3s, [and they] have an anti-depressant effect, especially when used in conjunction with prescription anti-depressants,” Farmer said. “Amaranth has both high amount[s] of magnesium (when amaranth is properly prepared and soaked before cooking) and folate. Magnesium has an anti-depressant effect and folate is essential for the biochemical production of serotonin (the happiness chemical).”
Here is the recipe for chia seed bars:
Ingredients: “1/2 cup chia seeds, 1/2 cooked amaranth, 1/2 package of broken up brown rice cakes, 1-2 pinches of salt and cinnamon, 1/4-1/2 cup of water.”
Preparation: “Mix all ingredients in a bowl. The chia seeds form a gelatinous texture with the amaranth grain and rice cakes. Pat mixture into a pyrex or parchment paper lined pan. Cook for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Let it cool, then cut into bar-sized servings.”
Dr. Kim Foster, a family doctor who is also a mom and blogs at www.savvyhealthguide.com, said in an email that she recommends these eight snacks for women who are depressed, anxious or stressed:
1. “Have a spinach salad (the magnesium in spinach helps regulate cortisol).”
2. “Drink a glass of orange juice (vitamin C has also been shown to decrease cortisol levels).”
3. “Eat oatmeal (complex carbs help lower stress).”
4. “Eat walnuts regularly (shown to decrease blood pressure during stressful events).”
5. “Chew gum (one study showed this decreases stress, anxiety, and improves mental performance).”
6. “Drink tea, green or black (shown to decrease cortisol levels).”
7. “Eat some avocado (potassium helps to lower your blood pressure).”
8. “Eat salmon (omega-3 helps with stress hormone surges).”
Scott, Trudy. Email interview. August 31, 2011.
Farmer, Nicole. Email interview. August 22, 2011.
Foster, Kim. Email interview. August 22, 2011.
Reviewed September 1, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Malu Banuelos