Your noggin depends on a variety of nutrients to keep itself balanced. Unfortunately, Cheetos and beer aren’t exactly brain foods.
So instead of downing a gallon of Breyer’s the next time you’re feeling down or stuffing yourself with leftover danishes from the break room before that big presentation at work, next time, give your body the fuel it needs.
Whatever your mood, we found the snacks that will provide a brain boost to get you through even the toughest situations—without sacrificing your waistline or muscles.Anxiety The Situation: You need to stay sharp through a grueling job interview.
Your Meal: Half a grilled-chicken wrap at lunch, hold the mayo
Here’s Why: Eating between 4 and 5 ounces of protein helps your brain create dopamine and norepinephrine, neurochemicals that keep you alert, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., author of The Serotonin Power Diet.
Stress The Situation: You have to meet a deadline without being overwhelmed.
Your Meal: A handful of sesame seeds while you’re working
Here’s Why: Stress hormones can deplete your body’s supply of magnesium, reducing your stress-coping abilities and increasing your risk of developing high blood pressure, says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of Food & Mood.
Restlessness The Situation: You need some serious shut-eye before the big day.
Your Meal: Nonfat popcorn half an hour before you go to bed
Here’s Why: The carbs will induce your body to create serotonin, a neurochemical that makes you feel relaxed. “Make sure it’s fat-free, because fat will slow the process of boosting serotonin levels,” says Somer.
Depression The Situation: Problems at home are doing you in.
Your Meal: Grilled salmon or sushi for dinner
Here’s Why: A study in Finland found that people who eat more fish are 31 percent less likely to suffer from depression. And skip sweet, simple carbs—the inevitable sugar crash can actually deepen depression.
Insecurity The Situation: Your confidence is waning as the night wears on.
Your Meal: A snack-size chocolate bar when she’s in the bathroom
Here’s Why: Chocolate contains a host of chemicals to brighten your mood, Somer says, including anadamine, which targets the same receptors as THC, and phenylethylamine, which produces a cozy, euphoric feeling.
Confusion The Situation: You’ve forgotten your last two deadlines.
Your Meal: Pineapple chunks for a snack or a cup of berries in your oatmeal
Here’s Why: Antioxidants from the most-colorful fruits and vegetables help pick off the free radicals that wear away at your memory. “Because your brain consumes so much oxygen, oxidants do heavy damage there,” says Somer.