Mood enhancers for the post-vacation blues

When we feel stressed, sad or tired, we tend to crave comforting foods, which are usually rich in fat, sugar or salt. Why are we drawn to that piece of cake or bowl of chips in these moments? To put it simply, because we are all human and our basic instinct is to survive. When we are under physical and/or emotional stress, our natural instincts kick in and we are drawn to high calorie foods, which provide us with quick, easy energy to sustain us throughout our busy, stressful days.

Unfortunately these foods (as comforting as they are in the moment while you are eating them) put your body on a never ending roller coaster of mood swings, blood sugar crashes and energy loss.

Wouldn’t it be great to have healthy, nutrient dense alternatives, which are still satisfying and provide you with steady energy throughout the day? Below you will find some natural, guilt-free, mood enhancing foods and a few meal suggestions which are quick and easy to prepare.

... but before you start fantasizing about my avocado toast, I would like to emphasize that essentially ALL foods from nature, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds will naturally enhance your mood and keep you happy :-)

Avocado is not only high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and blood-sugar controlling fiber, it’s also a great source of tyrosine. This amino acid is required for the conversion of neurotransmitters in our brain, which are responsible for our memory, mood and mental clarity. The vitamin B6 found in avocado is also said to decrease PMS symptoms, such as mood swings and irritability. Glad I was able to give you another reason to justify your avocado obsession!

Suggested preparations: raw chocolate-avocado mousse, smoothies,
cucumber-avocado gazpacho, guacamole, avocado toast, or simply on its own!

Photo: Homemade walnut sourdough bread with sliced avocado

I sincerely believe nature has its reasons when it shaped these nuts in the form of the human’s brain. Reason one is certainly their high content of omega-3 content, which is an essential nutrient to keep your mind focused and mood steady. Additionally, they are also a wonderful source of antioxidants, which also support your mood and protect you from oxidative stress. See, they don’t call them brain food for nothing!

Suggested preparations: walnut pesto, walnut-date energy balls, lentil-walnut spread, walnut-rice burger, or simply on its own!

Photo: Stuffed roasted eggplant with walnut "tuna", topped with creamy tahini sauce, sesame seeds and pomegranate

The traditional hummus is prepared with tahini, which are made from sesame seeds. Famous for their high calcium content, these tiny power seeds are also a great source of tryptophan which is an essential amino acid required to produce serotonin, aka the happy hormone. So why do I recommend hummus and not simply tahini on its own? Studies suggest that tryptophan has a higher chance of being converted to serotonin, when its eaten with carbohydrates! The chickpeas in the hummus not only provide the necessary carbohydrates for the conversion, but also contain Vitamin B1 and B6, both necessary nutrients which are responsible for mood and cognitive functions.

Suggested preparations: wraps, toast, stuffed vegetables, as non-dairy Caesar salad dressing, with raw vegetables

Photo: Classic hummus made with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper; Served with organic rainbow carrots