When you’re feeling frazzled, it’s easy to be tempted by a handful of M&Ms, a couple of cookies, or an entire pint of ice cream. Stress and anxiety are known to trigger cravings, and not necessarily for a grain bowl or kale salad.
But it is possible to harness those cravings for good! Turns out a handful of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can actually help relieve negative feelings. The magnesium, zinc, and omega-3s in nuts, for example, may help stabilize cortisol levels and keep your mood steady. Even dark chocolate (in moderation, of course) could help calm your nerves on harried days. "Research has shown that it can reduce your stress hormones," Health contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, said in a prior interview. "Also, the antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation."
Looking for a nutritious snack to take the edge off? These three simple recipes from Lindsey Smith's new book Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating ($16, amazon.com) are designed to do just that. They all star mood-stabilizing ingredients (including chocolate!), which makes them sweet treats you can feel really good about.
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PB Banana Chip Muffins
Serves: 12 to 14
2 large ripe bananas
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups nut flour, gluten-free flour, or whole grain flour, sifted
Pinch of sea salt
Dark chocolate chips, to your liking
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large food processor or blender, combine the bananas, coconut oil, maple syrup, peanut butter, vanilla extract, and egg. Blend until smooth. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt with the liquid mixture until mixed thoroughly. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into lined muffin tins. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Cookie Dough Contraband
Serves: 12 to 16
½ cup almond butter
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 cup almond or cashew flour
1¼ cup dark chocolate chips
Combine the almond butter and honey or maple syrup. Add the nut flour and mix until a ball of dough forms. Add the chocolate chips. Roll into bite-size balls and freeze for 30 minutes.
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Pistachio Chocolate Bananas
6 popsicle sticks or cake pop sticks
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup pistachios, crushed
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel the bananas and cut in half crosswise. Insert a stick halfway into each banana half. Place in freezer. Add a little coconut oil to a small saucepan, put on low to medium heat, and add in the dark chocolate chips. Stir until melted, but make sure it doesn’t burn. Take the bananas out of the freezer, dip in the chocolate, and sprinkle the pistachios on top. Freeze for at least 30 minutes or more before serving.
From Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl's Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating by Lindsey Smith. Copyright © 2017 by the author and reprinted with permission of Wednesday Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, LLC.