For the past month since I returned from my trip to the States, I’ve been sleeping really well. As you may know, I was quite a bit of an insomniac for many months before, and have been enjoying my daytime activities these days because of good sleep.
Regular exercise, calming activities such as yoga and pilates, as well as other healthy habits certainly play a big part of the sleeping puzzle. But what you may have never considered to help you sleep better is your daily diet.
I tend to stick with three meals a day and rarely get hunger pangs. But when I do, I used to lean on a heap of dried fruits and prepackaged trail mixes.
After some time experimenting around, I found that for someone as lazy as me, these incredibly filling combos are the best choices for snacks to boost satiety (admittedly, it’s mostly because they only take seconds to whip up).
While I’m no expert at nutrition, you can expect to dote on the mood-regulating effects of the following snacks, as well as the steady energy levels you’ll have even after hours since you last munched on them:
1. Raisins + cashews
I was raised with 100-calorie packs of Sunmaid’s raisins as my daytime + evening snacks. My whole family enjoys raisins regularly, especially if they’re still cool when pulled right off the fridge.
Even without added sugars, the wrinkly fruit are sweet as candies, giving you an instant kick of energy. Pretty soon, its high fiber content will fill you up before you grab another bag of candies, which we all know are just empty calories.
For women who are menstruating, raisins are packed with iron and copper – two minerals essential to the formation of new red blood cells, as well as calcium and boron – nutrients that strengthen your bones.
Like raisins, cashews are rich in iron and copper, plus a slew of other essential minerals, namely potassium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium to boost the antioxidant activity in your body. They’re also one of the sweeter-tasting varieties in the nut family, at least as I taste it. High in protein and essential fats, the kidney-shaped nuts make the perfect sidekick alongside the carb-rich raisins.
If you ask me, I’ll always have this classic combo with the extra crunch from flaxseeds. There is no gray area to my taste buds – I love anything silky-soft and chewy in texture. But if you’re sticking with having yours without the seeds, there’s virtually 0% fat in this snack.
For a light meal, the yogurt-and-berries mix is slightly high in calories – mostly coming from the tart, luscious, protein-rich yogurt. However, your belly won’t be growling for the next few hours. Together with the fiber-packed berries, these two make a great team to boost the health of your gut. Aside from its high fiber and high water content (read: extra hydration), berries are also a delicious way to fight midday fatigue and to alleviate overall stress, thanks to all that antioxidants working for ya.
Just make sure you’re basing the berries with 100% Greek yogurt, lest those added sugars/artificial sweeteners wreak havoc to your mood for the rest of the day.
3. Honey + cinnamon ginger tea
If you lead a pretty athletic lifestyle, you’re in for a big treat: The spicy duo are a manna from heaven when it comes to fighting inflammation. A recent study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine found that when given cinnamon and ginger powders daily, female taekwondo players experienced a significant decrease in the dreaded muscle soreness that normally occur post-workout, whereas the placebo fare did not see any changes during the 6-week intervention.
Cinnamon is long known in the medical community to be a potent spice for regulating blood glucose levels and reducing oxidative stress in the body, whereas ginger is a medicinal powerhouse for treating a wide variety of ailments, from healing a mild headache to preventing tumor growth that leads to cancer. Another study conducted by the same authors also showed that ginger significantly enhances athletic performance as well.
Coated with the antibacterial properties of honey, not only will your sweet herbal concoction relax your worn and torn muscles in no time, it’ll also help you wind down, ward off seasonal allergies, curb existing inflammation in your system, and keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
P.S. Did you know that ancient Olympians used to dose on honey to boost their performance?
When it comes to food, the only stuff we all remember in high school biology were carbs, proteins, and fats.
Sure, we can recall Vitamin A with the image of Bugs Bunny and his carrots in the back of our heads, and likewise Vitamin C for the surge in Airborne sales during winter.
Perhaps more than the calories we get from macronutrients, vitamins and minerals are essentially the backbone for our health. We get them either from the foods we eat or the supplements we take. Either way, we need them to keep our basic systems functioning. It’s important to get your RDI for these micros, as your body can go haywire when it’s short of them.
Below is a simple yet definitive infographic that can serve as your daily checklist:
Instead of popping pills, knowing where you can get these vitamins and minerals naturally will push you to make a significant change in your diet. Just make sure you’re getting all these essentials on your plate to lower your chances of getting nasty problems, and if you must do with supplements, do it in moderation.
As a health nut, I do take supplements, but that doesn’t mean I have a license to eat junk. For further info on supplements, I recommend getting your hands on the National Institute of Health’s Fact Sheets. It’s never too late to start eating healthy.
Because I eat a lot of bread and pasta and won’t be totally cutting them off my plate anytime soon, this recent Harvard study caught my eye.
43,685 women of ages 50 to 77 who had no prior history of depression participated in a 12-year study that revealed how our sinful indulgences can not only hurt our physical health, but also our mental health. Turns out those who consume a large percentage of carbs in their diet (think refined grains, like pasta, white bread, and white rice) as well as soft drinks, red meat and margarine are up to 41% more at risk of being diagnosed with depression than those who eat less of the carb-rich foods (think wine, coffee, leafy greens). While it’s not exactly clear how they correlate, clinical depression has long been linked to inflammation. So does refined grains, sugary foods, and processed meats.
Unless you’re already seeing a psychiatrist and taking over-the-counter meds, you don’t have to completely wipe out the comfort foods our of your meal (phew!), which is old news, really. It’s the age-old adage to have everything in moderation. Study researcher Michel Lucas, M.D., told HuffPost that it’s essential to look at the whole diet instead of looking for one single food to label as the culprit for inflammation or depression. Despite so, it’s still wise to incorporate a more Mediterranean-style diet, which is often pegged as mood-elevating, inflammation-fighting foods. Heavy in veggies, olive oil, and fish, your future self will thank your present eating habits before you know it.