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The good health snack that puts you in a good mood

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The stresses of everyday life can easily put you in a funk. Whether you’re working too much, sleeping too little or just generally overwhelmed by the state of the world, it can make you irritable, angry and even depressed.

So how do get yourself into a happier state of mind?

Well, there are a lot of simple ways to give your mood a natural boost. You can go for a run, watch a funny movie, meditate, practice affirmations or listen to your favorite song. But there’s no mood-enhancing trick that’s quite as beneficial or delicious as snacking on one of the healthiest nuts around — the walnut.

Science has already shown that walnuts can keep your memory sharp, improve your gut health, protect your heart and reduce your cancer risk. And now, researchers at the University of New Mexico have found they have a powerful impact on your mood, too.

eat-more-walnutsHow do they know? They asked college students between the ages of 18 and 25 to eat three slices of banana bread per day for sixteen weeks. For the first eight-weeks the students ate banana bread with walnuts, and for the second eight-weeks they ate banana bread without walnuts.

During both eight-week periods, researchers had the students fill out a questionnaire called Profiles of Mood States (POMS), which measures moods like tension, depression, anger, fatigue, vigor and confusion. It also provides a Total Mood Disturbance score (TMD). The lower your TMD, the happier you are.

After eight-weeks of eating the walnut banana bread, some of these students experienced a 28 percent improvement in their Total Mood Disturbance score, showing that walnuts are basically the Prozac of the nut world. But why?

Well, because they’re packed with mood-boosting nutrients like alpha-Linolenic acid, vitamin E, folate, polyphenols and melatonin. Any one of these nutrients on their own might have some effect on your mood. But in combination, they transform you from a negative Nelly to a paragon of positivity.

There is one thing to note about this study, however. Men experienced an improvement in their mood after eating more walnuts but women didn’t. Researchers aren’t sure why that is. But there have been previous studies in which omega-3s, which are amply available in walnuts, improved the moods of both men and women. So I think it’s safe to say, no matter what your gender, walnuts can do your brain (ward of Alzheimer’s) and your body good.  And, based on the advice of University of New Mexico Nutrition Professor and lead study researcher Peter Pribis, scientists seem to agree:

“Eat more walnuts. This is an easy intervention. They’re not only good for your mood, but overall health as well. The recommended amount is one handful per day.”

So next time you feel a bad mood coming on, grab a handful of walnuts… or better yet, a slice of walnut banana bread like they ate in the study…

Bananas are a known mood enhancer too because they contain tryptophan, which your body turns into serotonin — a brain chemical that banishes bad moods and makes you feel happy.  You can find tryptophan in several foods perfect for helping you ditch the winter-time blues. A few of these and a handful of walnuts everyday should make you a very happy camper.

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