19 Foods That Make You Happy

Food for thought: Since gut-health is linked to the brain, there’s a good chance that what you’re feeding yourself is also feeding your mood. Just as some foods can make you feel lousy after eating, others can make you feel great, thanks to mood-boosting nutrients.

  1. Brazil nuts

Your thyroid plays a key role in your mood, according to the Thyroid Foundation. That’s where Brazil nuts come in. Brazil nuts are the richest source of the mineral selenium. Selenium-rich foods help alleviate depression. And studies have shown that eating a small handful of Brazil nuts every day can help to improve mood.

  1. Avocados

Folate-rich avocados will keep you smiling. Foods that contain high levels of folate can help stop the buildup of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain, suggests Medical News Today.

  1. Walnuts

Walnuts are not only good for your heart, but they improve your mood, says Dr. Axe. Walnuts are the true brain food and contain one of the highest amounts of omega-3 fats of any nut. Including walnuts in your diet is said to improve anxiety, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

  1. Asparagus

If you’re feeling a little blue, give asparagus a try. Asparagus has mood-boosting nutrients like folic acid, which helps other mood-boosting nutrients such as vitamin D work well in your body, suggests The American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS).

  1. Dark, leafy greens

Eating dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard fight inflammation. And according to a study published in Jama Psychiatry, severe depression has been linked to inflammation. Nutrient-dense leafy greens contain an abundance of vitamins A, C, E and K, minerals and phytochemicals, all great for fighting inflammation.

  1. Watermelon

Watermelon is a great source of lycopene. Lycopene not only protects your brain, but helps to fight depression-causing inflammation. Olive oil has been shown to increase lycopene absorption, so why not try a watermelon salad this summer.

  1. Salmon

Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted in the brain into serotonin. Tryptophan depletion actually affects serotonergic transmission, which may bring on the blues, suggests research from the National Institute for Mental Health’s Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, Bethesda, MD.

  1. Hummus

Hummus, normally made with chickpeas, is loaded with mood-elevating nutrients tryptophan, folate and vitamin B6. Make your own by combining chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and tahini.

  1. Milk

Warm milk, often suggested as a remedy for sleep, contains the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to the sleep-inducing compounds serotonin and melatonin, says Dairy Nutrition. Combined with folate and B12, milk will not only help you relax but also make you smile.  

  1. Broccoli

To make the “feel good” chemical serotonin, the body needs folate and B vitamins, according to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. Half a cup of broccoli has 52 mg of folate, in addition to a rich source of B1, B2 and B6.

  1. Eggs

Eggs are loaded with mood-lifting omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, choline and B vitamins. Since they’re a great source of protein, you’ll feel fuller longer and more energized.

  1. Dark chocolate

Chocolate lovers are well aware of the mood-enhancing qualities of chocolate. Chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa gives you an instant lift by improving blood flow to the brain and relaxing blood vessels. Dark chocolate particularly alleviates anxiety and depressive symptoms, according to the Centre for Clinical and Quality of Life Studies.

  1. Green tea

Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that helps control stress, mood and muscle relaxation. But if drinking late in the day, opt for decaf, so the caffeine doesn’t impair your sleep.

  1. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are packed with tryptophan, which metabolizes in the brain, into  mood-boosting serotonin.  

  1. Coconut oil

A study conducted in Malaysia looked at how consuming high-antioxidant virgin coconut oil could affect mental health. Published in the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine the study evaluated the anti-stress and antioxidant effects of virgin coconut oil in stressed-out mice. The study found that high-quality virgin coconut oil may actually help with depression and even eliminate the need for antidepressant drugs.

  1. Bananas

Eating bananas can help relieve depression and improve your mood thanks once again to tryptophan, the same compound in turkey meat that promotes calm and relaxation. Combined with B vitamins, the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin helps improve mood and overall feelings of well-being.

  1. Chia seeds

Chia seeds contain tryptophan and phenylalanine, B6 and healthy fats. Chia seeds are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help keep us upbeat and happy.  

  1. Watermelon

Watermelon enhances mood thanks to vitamin B6. Research suggests that those who suffer from anxiety and depression are generally deficient in this vitamin. B6 acts as a neurotransmitter by producing serotonin in the body, which leads to the feel-good sensations.

  1. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt, loaded with probiotics is now thought to reduce activity in areas of the brain associated with emotion and pain. According to UCLA researchers, probiotics like those found in Greek yogurt affect brain function in humans. In an early proof-of-concept study funded by Danone, researchers found that women who regularly consumed probiotics through yogurt showed positive altered brain function during rest and emotion. Opa!

—Katherine Marko

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