Foods that positively influence your mental health are the foods that make you happy. Incorporate more of these happy foods into your diet and you’ll experience a mental-health upswing in a matter of weeks, if not days.
“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley
When we’re feeling stressed, our levels of dopamine and serotonin—two brain chemicals that improve mood—drop, and we seek out unhealthy junk foods (sweets, fried foods, processed convenience foods) to feel better.
This only feeds a vicious cycle, because the foods we eat increase inflammation in our guts, lead to oxidative stress in the brain, and cause serotonin and dopamine to drop again.
You can break this cycle by eating more whole foods that make you happy.
I’ve noticed that when I eat right, I feel right, and vice versa. My mind feels less cluttered and foggy, and I find that it’s easier to move through the day with a smile.
Food Affects Mood
The mind and the body are part of a whole and can’t be separated, meaning that what you put into your body is highly relevant to how you feel not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too.
Changing your diet can lead to profound changes in brain structure and behavior.Click To Tweet
Certain antioxidants and nutrients found in the foods listed below have been shown to help prevent and repair oxidative stress—a buildup of free radicals which, over time, negatively interferes with the way brain cells function.
If brain cells are unhealthy and damaged by oxidative stress, the signals they send to each other become muddled or irregular, which can lead to disorders like depression and anxiety.
Studies have shown that those who eat more whole foods like fruits, vegetables, unprocessed meats, and whole grains are less likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder than those who had a low intake of these healthy foods.
Shift into a positive mental state by incorporating into your daily diet any of these ten foods.
10 Healthy Foods that Make You Happy
1. Fermented foods
The gut is one of the first indicators of health.
Gut bacteria help keep intact the gut lining, which is full of nerve cells that constantly send messages to the brain. The gut lining also acts as a barrier to toxins and aids digestion so your brain is protected from bad stuff while still getting needed nutrients.
The wrong foods can cause your gut lining to become inflamed and break down, which is associated with more mood disorders, including depression.
The gut and the brain are intrinsically linked, and these foods contain probiotic bacteria that research suggests make your gut generally healthier:
- Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)
- Miso (Japanese fermented soybean paste)
- Kombucha (a feremneted drink brewed with yeast)
- Yogurts containing “live active cultures” and no sugar
Probiotic supplements can be a good choice for those with anxiety or depression (and for good gut health in general), but exactly which supplements work best is up in the air. I take Bio-Kult Probiotic Capsules.
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) type found in seafood like salmon, tuna, halibut, rainbow trout, and shrimp, seem to be helpful to people with depression.
The membranes of brain cells are partially made from omega-3 fatty acids, so keeping your levels up encourages maximum cognitive and behavioral functioning along with a cheery mood. Seafood also has lots of B12, which is thought to be important in brain and mental health.
The recommended amount of DHA per day is 600-1000 mg.
4. Complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates have been shown to encourage the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical, and promote a long-lasting sense of well-being. Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are known to induce mood swings.
Examples of complex carbs include chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oats, brown rice, quinoa, yams, butternut squash, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, parsnips, whole-grain cereals, bananas, and starchy vegetables.
Since complex carbs take longer to digest, they’re sort of like a “time-release” happy pill.
Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain. It’s packed with B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc, and iron. This is wonderful, because all of these nutrients boost serotonin in the body, preventing depression, fatigue, and anemia.
A particular flavanoid found in quinoa, called quercetin, has been shown to have anti-depressant effects.
Aside from being considered a comfort food, eggs contain a healthy combination of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin, choline, and vitamins A, B, and D to help fight fatigue and turn that frown upside down.
7. Dark, leafy green vegetables
High-antioxidant veggies like spinach, asparagus, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts deliver healthy doses of vitamin C, magnesium, and folate, a B vitamin that affect neurotransmitters that impact mood and may hep reduce symptoms of depression.
A fat and happy fruit, avocados are loaded with B vitamins, which your body needs to maintain healthy brain activity. They contain healthy fats that help boost your mood and improve your overall sense of well-being. Avocados are also a good source of tryptophan, protein, and folate, all known to help ward off depression.
Bananas are packed with vitamin B6, folate, tryptophan (a brain chemical that helps regulate mood), iron, magnesium (a stress-reducer), and potassium. Bananas are one of my favorite go-to snacks when I need a little pick-me-up.
10. Purple berries
Dark purple berries like blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, raspberries, and purple and red grapes contain the flavonoid quercetin and heart-healthy anthocyanidins (red, blue, and purple pigments).
These powerful antioxidants have been shown to enhance mood, help prevent and repair oxidative stress, and reduce inflammation (which has been associated with increased rates of depression).
You may also be interested in these 15 foods for stress relief.
- What mood-lifting foods are you eating today?
- What are some foods that make you happy?
- Do you have any favorite recipes featuring any of these foods?
- What positive effects have you experienced when you eat certain foods?
Please share your own favorite good-mood foods, recipes, thoughts, and experiences with me in the comments.
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