Perhaps you're thinking, " Of course food makes me happy. Evidenced by the chocolate chip cookie crumbs on my pajamas, and the smile on my face." And you'd be right. Junk food manufacturers know that the sugar, salt, and fat found in their treats signal your brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine. They've perfected the texture complexity that leaves your taste buds wanting more. And the sweet/salty combination? They nailed it.
But, as you know, that chocolate-smeared smile is short-lived. In fact, a study published by Public Health Nutrition Journal found that people who eat fast food and commercial baked goods are 51% more likely to develop depression than those who eat very little or none. Not to mention the low energy, cravings, and frustration that often follow a junk-food feast.
Fortunately, you don't have to make the choice between happy and healthy. Read on for a few foods that will actually make you happy, on the inside and outside.
- Produce the produce
You knew this was coming. The American Journal of Public Health published a study that found that upping your daily produce intake to 8 cups per day can bring the same amount of happiness associated with finding a new job after a period of unemployment, so load up at each meal with fruits and veggies.
- Go to the dark side
If it’s chocolate you crave, make sure it’s dark. Dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa has an impressive array of health benefits and can even reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
- Golden goodness
Ground turmeric, that golden-hued spice that has been flooding your Pinterest pages for months, was found by the, as well as some of depression's nasty repercussions like a desire to oversleep, weight gain, and increased hunger. Add this wonder-spice to sauces, smoothies, and even try sprinkling a bit on your salads.
- The magic mineral
Magnesium is found in dark, leafy greens, avocados, nuts, seeds, tofu, dark chocolate, figs, bananas, and more. And despite its proven ability to help fight depression and improve sleep quality, an estimated 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium.
- Trust your gut
Probiotics contain “good bacteria” and are important to restore and maintain gut health. Poor gut health is due to illness, poor diet, medications like antibiotics, and more. Probiotics are usually found in fermented foods or taken as supplements. The good news is they appear to be safe for most people and can be found in many types of yogurt. Tip: Not all yogurts are made the same, so make sure the yogurt you're buying is low in sugar and indicates on the carton that it contains live and active cultures.
Of course, we always recommend talking with a mental health professional regarding depressive feelings. Also, since exercise is also a proven mood-booster, your Fitness Together trainer can also give you tips on which moves can keep you feeling your best.