Can eating make you happy? We’re not talking about the temporary comfort of curling up on the couch with a half-gallon of ice cream and a spoon.
Researchers have long documented links between food and mood—there are chemical properties in certain foods that can help us beat the blues and feel more satisfied, refreshed and awake. Take charge of your health and outlook by incorporating these seven energy-boosting, mood elevating foods into you and your family’s daily regimen. Of course, macaroni and cheese, pizza and cookies aren’t on our list. But don’t worry—chocolate makes an appearance!
TOP HEALTHY FOODS TO BOOST YOUR MOOD
Bananas • Potassium- and iron-rich bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid used to create melatonin and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that work together to provide a balanced mood. Serotonin boosts mood and energy, while melatonin regulates sleep. Plus, bananas are filling and make a great snack between meals, and there’s no guilt in that yellow peel.
Spinach & Leafy Greens • Pack these Vitamin B-rich leaves into salads, soups and sandwiches, or sauté them with a little olive oil and garlic for a tasty side dish. B vitamins help produce—you guessed it—serotonin, and spinach in particular is rich in folate, the deficiency of which has been linked to depression. Swiss chard, another dark leafy green, can help women fight stress, and its high magnesium content will help you sleep better and reduce PMS symptoms.
Salmon & Oily Fish • Omega-3s, those “good fats” that boost mood and memory while protecting against memory loss in old age, are most readily found in salmon, but you can also get a good dose in other oily fishes, like herring, sardines and tuna. Omega-3 will also satiate hunger, as fatty foods tend to do, but in a good way.
Walnuts & Flaxseed • If you’re vegetarian or not a fish lover, try getting your Omega-3s from the next best sources: walnuts and flaxseeds. Toss walnuts onto breakfast granola, blend them into smoothies, or eat them on salads. Remember that flaxseed has to be ground in order to absorb nutrients. You can also try flaxseed oil—either as a daily supplement or added to smoothies or cereal—but you’ll miss out on the valuable fiber content of ground flax seed.
Beans • Rich in protein and fiber, beans of all varieties are also packed with iron, which fights lethargy. And it’s no surprise that energy and a good mood go hand in hand, just as lethargy is the companion to depression or a blue mood. Beans are incredibly versatile, and can be prepared as a main course, in soups and salads, and in appetizers and snacks like hummus.
Berries • Morning and night, what’s not to love about berries? These superfoods are rich in antioxidants and in turn, help the body produce more of the same. In the morning, try a helping of blueberries or raspberries on cereal, or later in the day, snack on them fresh or frozen. As a bedtime snack, try cherries—either fresh or the dried sour version. They’ll give you a boost of melatonin for a good night’s sleep.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Chocolate • We don’t know what makes us happier: Knowing that a little red wine is good for the heart, or that a little chocolate is good for our mood. Chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins, which boost serotonin levels and in turn elevate our mood. Oh, and it tastes good, too! Stick to at least 70% dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate in order to reap the maximum benefits, and don’t overdo it—you don’t want to eat too much of a good thing!