Good morning, sunshine! Peel an orange any time of day for an instant energy and mood boost. This super-nutritious citrus fruit brims with Vitamin C, which helps pump oxygen through your body and brain to recharge your system. “Oranges are the perfect bring-along snack,” says Somer. Toss sections into your salad or rice dishes, and dunk them in fat-free chocolate syrup for dessert.
Greasy fat goes straight to your hips, but the “good” fats known as omega-3 head upstairs to cushion your brain cells, helping mood and memory. “Foods rich in omega-3 fat DHA will improve your outlook today, while cutting your risk for dementia down the road,” says Somer. Natural sources include salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. If you’re not a fish fan, look for DHA-fortified foods like Horizon and Silk milks, Gold Circle Farms eggs and Mission Life Balance tortillas. And because fat is satiating, omega-3s curb hunger for hours.
It’s the ultimate comfort food for a good reason: a hearty bowl of chicken soup with veggies has the “water-fiber-protein trifecta that fills you up before it fills you out,” Somer says. Load your soup with dark green and orange veggies (like collards, carrots and squash cubes) for an extra helping of happiness: they’re chock-full of vitamins to improve mood, brainpower and immunity.
Do the little stressors in life leave you nibbling your nails? Acquaint your chompers with Swiss chard, instead. This dark green “leafy” is packed with magnesium, which has been shown to bolster a woman’s capacity to handle and overcome stress, says Somer. Magnesium also curbs symptoms of PMS and aids in better sleep. Layer chard into lasagna, or toss into stir-fries, soups and stews.
No wonder Popeye was always so jolly: his beloved spinach is swimming in antioxidants, which protect the delicate membranes in brain cells from the free radicals that dampen mood and drain energy. Spinach also boasts folic acid, a B vitamin strongly linked with preventing depression and reducing fatigue. Toss spinach into your salads, sandwiches and soups to up your intake.
Burgers or meat sauce made with lean beef (or, for vegetarians, black beans).
Burgers or meat sauce made with lean beef (or, for vegetarians, black beans) will help you get your fill of iron, a mineral that carries the oxygen through blood to generate mental energy. Up to 80 percent of women are iron-deficient, even if the condition doesn’t reach full-blown anemia, says Somer. “You can’t sleep well or think well with an iron deficiency.” To promote optimal intake (and stave off lethargy, fatigue and anxiety), she advises drinking tea and coffee between meals, since their tannins can block iron absorption.
Battling a slump? A small, all-carb snack like an English muffin slathered with jam will raise levels of serotonin, our brain’s natural, self-generated antidepressant. “If you’re grumpy in the late afternoon, or feeling wired at night, this type of snack will help you relax and help your cravings subside,” says Somer. Other snacks that fuel serotonin: a bowl of popcorn, sorbet with berries or Fig Newtons.
Pass the blueberries, dodge the blues. This “superfruit” is teeming with antioxidants that keep your neural pathways running smoothly, promoting positive energy. “Pop frozen blueberries into your mouth while watching TV,” suggests Somer. “It’s a great alternative to ice-cream.” New research shows that compounds in the berries help to re-write our genetic code so that the body becomes its own antioxidant factory, churning out feel-good enzymes in the brain. (We always knew that happiness could come from within!)
Enjoy a handful of dried tart cherries before you call it a night. Besides their rich supply of antioxidants, cherries boast a compound called melatonin that improves quality of sleep, says Somer. The carbs also summon enough serotonin to set the stage for a solid block of Z’s – the best predictor of a good mood in the morning.