5 best snacks for mood: Dark chocolate
4. Dark chocolate
A number of unscientific studies name chocolate the number-one craved food in America, so it makes sense that indulging in chocolate makes for a happy experience. And, as it turns out, there are some real reasons why that's so. For one, chocolate contains a number of substances that elevate mood, including fat, sugar, caffeine, phenylethylamine, flavonols, theobromine, and tryptophan.
Caffeine and theobromine are two naturally occurring stimulants found in chocolate. Along with sugar and fat, these substances provide a swift burst of energy and mood-lifting power. Chocolate also contains the mood-boosting compounds phenylethylamine, tyramine, tryptophan, and magnesium. While these substances are found in many other foods, even in higher concentrations, chocolate has an advantage because of its appeal on several sensory levels: it has a rich, mouth-pleasing texture; an intense taste; and an appealing aroma. For many of us, just the idea of indulging in chocolate is enough to elicit a positive emotional response.
In addition to these natural pick-me-ups, when you eat chocolate, a number of reactions occur, including the release of serotonin in the brain and mood-elevating endorphins in the body. This heady combination can result in a temporarily lifted mood and even a fleeting feeling of euphoria, which may explain why some people turn to chocolate when they're feeling blue.
Finally, cocoa is a natural source of antioxidant flavonoids, which increase blood flow (and thus oxygenation) in the brain, and which may contribute to better brain function. Not all chocolate is created equal, though. For the best health and happiness benefits, go for good-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa level of 70 percent or higher. The more cocoa it contains, the higher the levels of healthy compounds, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.
Get even happier: Chocolate-covered almonds are a decadent snack full of fiber, vitamin E, potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, tryptophan, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Almonds help lower the glycemic index of the chocolate, preventing a spike in blood sugar and its resultant low energy and mood. In fact, fiber, manganese, copper, and B2 are power players when it comes to energy production -- and steady energy is a must for a happy mood.