Eat Your Way To Happy

10 Foods that lift your mood

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Comfort foods do more than evoke fond childhood memories. Research shows that mood-boosting foods actually work with your brain to make you feel happier and more relaxed.

Woman eating banana

Foods play a large role in our moods, energy and emotions, says New York City-based nutritionist Ariane Hundt. "A poor diet, especially one loaded with junk food, is often a cause of depression."

The brain's neurotransmitters regulate our mood and behavior and are controlled by our food intake, explains Hundt. "The neurotransmitters most closely related to mood are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. When the brain makes serotonin, we typically feel happier and more relaxed. When the other two are produced, we think and act more quickly and clearly."

The key to balancing mood through nutrition is consistency, even during stressful times, adds Hundt. So even though we tend to crave sugary foods for a quick mood fix, the long term and lasting fix is a good combination of lean proteins and lots of vegetables to stabilize blood sugar and neurotransmitters.


Exper tips

Tip: Kate Brown, certified fitness trainer, suggests substituting ground turkey for ground beef in burger and chili recipes to get a mega dose of tryptophan.

1 Tryptophan

Found in turkey and milk, tryptophan boosts serotonin levels to balance mood and provide a more positive outlook.

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2 High-protein foods

Foods such as fish, turkey, chicken and eggs are high in protein. Protein enhances dopamine and norepinephrine production, which helps concentration.

Meatless ways to get your protein >>

3 Bananas

There's yet another good reason to eat a banana a day. Bananas boost serotonin and dopamine production.

Old-Fashioned Southern Banana Pudding recipe >>

4 Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates stimulate the production of serotonin. Sugary carbs do not provide the same benefit. Find complex carbs in whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal), vegetables and legumes.  

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5 Avocados

Healthy fat like that found in avocados helps raise dopamine levels and increase endorphins. And guacamole isn't the only way to enjoy this superfood. You can make avocado hash browns, avocado burgers and avocado shakes!

How to buy and prepare avocados >>

6 Almonds 

In addition to being high in fiber and good fat for brain health, almonds are proven to increase dopamine levels.

Cooking with almond flour >>

7 Dark chocolate

It comes as no surprise that chocolate makes the list. This comfort food boosts serotonin levels without resulting in a sugar crash or low blood sugar. Look for dark chocolate with more than 85 percent cocoa.

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8 Green tea

Hartford bioidentical hormone doctor Alicia Stanton recommends drinking green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid showns to improve mood while reducing stress and anxiety, says Dr Stanton. L-theanine promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness and even may increase mental alertness, focus and memory.

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9 Omega 3 fats

Coldwater fish, such as wild salmon, sardines and tuna, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and protect against mood swings and depression, says Dr Stanton.

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10 Probiotics

Probiotics have been shown to improve mood, says Wendy Bailey of Our bodies have serotonin receptors in our gut, explains Bailey, and an imbalance in good and bad bacteria can distrupt the production/reception of serotonin. Probiotics keep levels of bad bacteria down. Find probiotics in yogurt, cottage cheese and some cereals.

Get more probiotics >>

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Mary Fetzer
Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, health, entertainment and fashion. Mary's marketing expertise includes competitor analysis, including extensive experience in corporate "spying." Mary and her husband, Murray, reside in Central Pennsylvania and have two daughters, Susan and Isabelle.

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