We hear a lot about healthy dinners, nutritious lunches and filling breakfasts, but what about the hours left between each meal? This is often where the trouble in healthy eating lurks. Preparing healthy snacks is an easy task to miss, but can leave us feeling deprived and potentially result in over-eating or snacking on chocolate, chips and whatever else may be available. Creating snacks can also be time to cultivate creativity and indulge your taste buds in new spices, textures and combinations. Why not embrace different cultures and take a culinary trip around the world by giving these unique and healthy snacks a try:
East Asia: Edamame: Made from soybeans, edamame is a popular snack in Japan and China. They are rich in protein, fiber and vitamin K, all of which are important components of our daily diet. It is considered a complete source of protein because it contains all 9 essential amino acid. Edamame is also an excellent source of folate, which can improve depression symptoms by producing serotonin.
Southeast Asia: Tamarind: In Southeast Asia and India, tamarind is vastly popular. They are a sweet fruit that can be eaten in uniquely different ways such as a jam, in steak sauce or by themselves by cracking the pods and discarding the seeds. Tamarind is full of fiber and vitamin B that provide energy and mood stability throughout the day and for centuries has been cited to alleviate depression.
Middle East: Hummus: Also referred to as Garbanzo beans, chickpeas are the main ingredient in the Middle Eastern delicacy, hummus. Chickpeas are packed with iron, copper, zinc and magnesium, nutrients that safeguard us from anxiety. Hummus also may reduce our vulnerability to depression by generating dopamine in the brain.
West Africa: fruit salad: The tropical weather of West Africa makes for the ideal environment for a variety of delicious and juicy fresh fruits to grow! A new UK study has found that an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables leads to increased happiness. For a snack that is bountiful in color and nutrients, incorporate tropical fruits such as papaya, coconut, pineapple and banana into a mouth-watering fruit salad.
Caribbean: Conch: Clear blue water, and colorful flora not only make for a peaceful vacation, but they also create a delicious snack! This traditional Caribbean snack is found at almost every local restaurant in the Bahamas and for good reason. A type of mollusk, conch is an excellent source of protein as well as various vitamins and minerals. Using freshly diced conch, Bahamians then mix in fresh tomato, sweet peppers. Mix in some apples and mangoes to create a snack that is abounding in vitamins and minerals.
Latin America: Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are popular amongst Latin culture. Pumpkin seeds can improve our mood and fight depression by triggering the production of serotonin in the brain. Pumpkin seeds lower cholesterol and offer diverse antioxidants that make them one of the “World’s Healthiest Foods”. Just roast them in the oven for 15 minutes and voila!
Southern Europe: Olives: Although common almost everywhere, olives are very popular in southern European countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. The olive is known as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. They are packed with good fats such as oleic acid that promote good emotional health, and have the power to reduce cardiovascular disease. Snack on a salty olive instead of potato chips or french fries.