What is it about food that makes us so happy?
There's something amazing about a nice meal, whether with friends, family or that special someone in your life!
Time simply flies when you're eating with the right people.
The social aspect of meals plays a large role in the happiness. Studies have proven that social activity and interaction with others can help to reduce your risk of depression and boost your mood. Sitting around the table with people you like/love definitely will make you happier.
But did you know the food you eat can also make you happy?
There are a number of foods that can affect your mood positively, helping to drive away feelings of anxiety, stress, worry, and depression.
Here are twelve of the best foods with incredible mood-boosting benefits:
This one probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. After all, why else is chocolate one of those "comfort foods" we all crave when we're feeling blue? There has to be something about chocolate that's guaranteed to make you feel happy, right?
Chocolate contains compounds that are similar to valproic acid, a compound that is commonly found in mood stabilizing and anti-convulsant drugs. Dark chocolate (70 to 95% cocoa) can help to enhance your mood, putting you in a "positive mood state"--according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
However, be warned: researchers from the UCSD found that people who eat a lot of chocolate tend to increase your risk of depression. Stick with no more than 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate per day!
When you think of turkey, no doubt you immediately picture a Thanksgiving dinner with your whole family. There's something amazing about sitting around a table, giving thanks to all the important people in your life.
Perhaps turkey is the reason you feel so good at Thanksgiving…
Turkey is one of the best natural sources of tryptophan, a chemical that is used by your brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin is the "feel good" neurochemical that stabilizes and controls your mood. Getting more tryptophan is the key to raising your serotonin levels, meaning you feel better.
Don't keep turkey only for your Thanksgiving dinner, but eat it on a regular basis to improve your mood. You'll feel happier after a big turkey meal, and you'll find that you sleep a lot better as well (tryptophan helps you to sleep).
Have you ever stopped to look at the common ingredient in just about every single "comfort food" on the planet? From the fairy bread of Australia to the treacle pudding of Britain to American apple pie, almost all comfort food contains carbohydrates--either in the form of a grain of some sort (wheat, rice, oats, etc.) or sugar.
Make no mistake: comfort food is usually NOT healthy. It tends to be high in both calories and carbs, which can increase your waistline.
That being said, carbs are some of the best food to help boost your mood. In the Archives of Internal Medicine, a study was published that detailed how people on a low-carb diet are more irritable and more prone to negative emotions: anger, depression, confusion, and hostility. Those on a low-fat diet tended to have a more positive mood.
Why is this? It's believed carbs are needed for the production of serotonin, which improves your mood and makes you feel happier. If you're feeling a bit blue, have a slice of bread or a bowl of oatmeal!
The oilier, the better!
Fish is pound for pound, the healthiest protein on the planet. It contains a hefty dose of muscle-building amino acids, but it's also packed with minerals and healthy fatty acids. One of these fatty acids is Omega-3, which plays a vital role in mood and emotional states.
A 2006 paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry proved that an Omega-3 deficiency can be a "contributing factor" in mood disorders. It suggests that increasing Omega-3 intake could be a viable treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, and even for unipolar and bipolar depressive disorders!
Which fish should you be eating?
Salmon is the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids, but mackerel, herring, Bluefin tuna, sardines, and albacore are all good options.
If you want to feel better and happier, add more fatty fish to your diet!
5. Brazil Nuts
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All nuts are a good source of fatty acids (including Omega-3s), making them a useful addition to your diet. However, one specific type of nut stands out from the rest: Brazil nuts.
Brazil nuts are an epic source of selenium, a mineral linked to depression. In one study, men who didn't get enough selenium in their diet suffered from depressed moods. An extra-high intake of selenium won't necessarily make you feel better, but it can help to PREVENT bad moods, depression, and "the blues."
A single Brazil nut contains a whopping 160% of your daily recommended selenium intake. Just a few of the nuts can go a long way toward reducing your risk of depression and mood disorders.
Bonus: The high-fat content of Brazil nuts can help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
6. High-Fiber Foods
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It may be a bit hard to believe, but there is actually a link between high-fiber foods and a better mood. How do you ask?
According to the journal Nutrition, one Canadian study found that a low-fiber, low saturated fat, and low Omega-3 diet was linked to an increased risk of suicide attempts. While it's a well-known fact that fatty acids can help to balance mood, it was surprising to discover that dietary fiber could have any effect on mood. Perhaps it's that fiber helps to balance out digestion, promoting healthy absorption of those important fats. Or, it may be that a diet rich in whole foods can help to protect you against depression--as a 2009 study indicated.
Either way, adding more high-fiber foods to your diet is the way to go! Not only will it help to improve your mood, but it can promote weight loss, reduced appetite, and fat burning. It can't hurt to try it!
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Did you know that Saffron is the single most expensive spice in the world? It can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per pound! That's a lot of money to pay, but once you taste the spice (used in Spanish paella), you can understand why it's so pricey.
One of the benefits of saffron is its ability to improve your mood. Saffron has historically been used to treat depression, and a 2007 study posted in a German medical journal provided the proof that saffron can have anti-depressive effects--both in vivo and in a number of pilot clinical studies.
Pricey it may be, but it's definitely worth consuming in order to improve your mood. The good news is that you only need to use a small amount of saffron to add flavor to your food, and even small doses can help you feel better.
Coconut is one of the healthiest high-fat foods on the planet. Coconut oil is a highly popular "cure all" remedy, and it's a wonderful addition to your meals. Thanks to its high unsaturated fat content, it's a heart-smart oil that just tastes delightful.
But in this case, it's the SMELL of coconut that has the effect on your mood. In one 2010 study, the scent of coconuts helped to improve heart rate and heart period variability among those performing stressful tasks. Despite the stress, coconut oil helped to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Feeling stressed and depressed at work? Get some coconut fragrance in your office or home, and you'll relax. No stress can get you when you've got the smell of coconut wafting through the air! Plus, your room will smell like a tropical beach. What's not to love?
Lentils are a high-carb, high-fiber food, meaning they can help to improve your mood. However, they're also low in fat and rich in protein, making them--along with beans, garbanzos, and other legumes--some of the healthiest foods for you!
These little legumes also contain a wide range of polyphenols, antioxidants that can improve your mood. In Nutritional Neuroscience: An International Journal of Nutrition, Diet and Nervous System, a 2012 study examined the link between polyphenol consumption and better brain function. These antioxidants help to increase the plasticity of your brain synapses, improving overall function and increasing your brain's ability to produce neurochemicals--including serotonin.
If you want to have a happier, better-functioning brain, it's a good idea to eat polyphenol-rich foods. Lentils just happen to be one of the best!
There is an endless war for dominance between tea and coffee. Tea is the single most consumed beverage in the world, with coffee coming in somewhere after water and beer. Americans love their coffee, but perhaps the rest of the world has it right by drinking tea…
A 2008 article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that it's the theanine in tea (black, green, and white tea) that helps to improve mood. The mixture of caffeine and theanine helped to not only improve heart rate and increase energy levels, but it also helped to relax subjects, dilate blood vessels, reduce blood pressure, and even improve mood.
Want to feel better? Do as the British do and have a cup of tea! Add a bit of sugar to obtain the mood-boosting benefits of carbohydrates, and stir in some milk to add calcium (another mood-boosting nutrient) into your drink.
Oysters: you either love their elegant sophistication or hate their slimy saltiness!
Whether you love or hate them, oysters are one of the best mood-boosting foods around. No, it has nothing to do with their flavor or texture, but it all comes down to one simple nutrient: zinc.
Zinc plays a vital role in your emotional health and mood. Low zinc levels in your blood are a contributing factor to depression, and getting more zinc in your life can have an anti-depressant effect. In one study, women who increased their zinc intake showed less hostility, were less angry, and were happier than women who did not.
Not an oyster fan? Here are a few more foods to try:
- Veal liver (11.9 mg per 100-gram serving)
- Dark chocolate (3.3 mg per 100-gram serving)
- Sesame seeds (10.2 mg per 100-gram serving)
- Pumpkin seeds (10.3 mg per 100-gram serving)
12. Dark Greens
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Dark, leafy greens like broccoli, chard, spinach, and arugula are all excellent foods to add to your diet. Thanks to their high-fiber content, they can reduce your appetite, prevent hunger pangs, and improve digestion. However, these foods also contain another vital nutrient: calcium.
Calcium plays a vital role in the absorption of fatty acids--like Omega-3s, which improve mood. Way back in 1994, a study was published that detailed the results of two experiments. Both proved that calcium supplementation helped to "greatly elevate mood" over the placebo.
It's believed that calcium deficiency is linked to PMS-related depression.
It's vital that you get enough calcium, no matter who you are. Calcium plays a role in fat burning, bone health, and brain function, as well as regulating your mood.
Yes, dark greens are the all-around healthiest sources of calcium. However, you can always get more from milk, yoghurt, cheese, and ricotta
The more calcium, the better!
Whichever you try, make sure that you're making yourself feel awesome (inside and out) in the process!
It really helps if you choose what you eat. Not only do these foods boost your mood, but it also greatly affects your overall disposition. It's great to know that you're keeping yourself healthy while projecting positive vibes.
Do you have any foods that we missed?
Let us know in the comments below!