There's a hypothesis that carbs can help your brain produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates moods, explains Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, the author of The Serotonin Power Diet. In clinical studies Wurtman carried out as a researcher at MIT, when carbohydrate-craving volunteers drank a high-carb beverage, they showed measurable improvements in mood, concentration and energy levels. So if you're having bagel fantasies during what Wurtman calls the "carb craving time," between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., she suggests trying a sweet and starchy snack of about 120 calories and 25 to 30 grams of carbs (note: this advice is not recommended for diabetics, who have a complicated relationship with carbs). Wurtman says that easily digested simple carbs will boost mood right away, while complex carbs take longer to digest, making them a "time-release" happy pill. Her recommendations combine both types of carbs: a whole-wheat English muffin with jam, oatmeal with raisins or honey on whole-wheat crackers.
Added perk: Carbohydrate-cravers will feel the mood-lifting effects within 20 minutes, says Wurtman.
Next: Perfect snacks for the anxious, the stressed and the tired