By Dr. Drew Ramsey
You are what you eat, and if you snack on these mood-boosting foods, you sure will be smiling. Dr. Ramsey, author of The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body recommends that people focus on "brain foods" to promote happiness. Sounds easy enough to us! See what you think.
1. Greek yogurt
This calcium-packed dairy product alerts the body to release feel-good neurotransmitters. "Disturbances in calcium levels can produce anxiety, depression, irritability, impaired memory, and slow thinking," says Dr. Ramsey.... so it’s important to get a regular fix of greek yoghurt if you want to sharpen your brain and enhance your mood.
Folic acid, a natural chemical, which is great at metabolizing proteins and increasing energy levels, is one of the main vitamins found in avocados. These creamy delights are also high in vitamin C, antioxidants and healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Our brain cells are composed of fat, therefore a diet low in essential fats (EFAs) leads to stress, anxiety, depression and frustration. Find ways to integrate avocado in your diet – salads and smoothies are a great way to do this.
Chilli peppers increase your endorphin levels and are consumed by over half the population! Studies even show those living in warmer climates, thus consuming more chilies and hot spices, are ranked as happier! Chilies produce capsaicin, which produces the hot burning sensation we feel in our mouths. Capsaicin reduces cancer cells, is an antioxidant and not to mention a natural aphrodisiac, boosting your libido. There are many ways to include chilli in your diet other than curry so why not experiment with this versatile spice.
We all could use a little honey. Honey is packed with quercetin and kaempferol, which help clean up the free radicals and reduce inflammation, unlike other sugars. "Honey helps reduce inflammation, which is very important to maintaining a healthy brain," Dr. Ramsey explains. "Some depression actually stems from chronic, low-grade inflammation."
You may not be too happy about your breath afterwards, but garlic boosts mood by increasing blood flow around your body. The more blood flow, the less energy your heart will have to expend pumping, hence more energy to dance around your living room! (Or whatever makes you happy) Garlic in some quarters is actually used as a natural treatment against depression so get a little garlic therapy! Try buying adding garlic to your salads, scrambled eggs, pasta etc.
If you plan on drinking, this is the veggie for you. The enzymes in asparagus are highly effective in breaking down alcohol in your system, preventing a hangover. Asparagus is a great source of tryptophan, the basis for creating serotonin, our brain's primary mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Studies show that up to 50 percent of those suffering depression have low folate levels - well they should be prescribed asparagus, which has one of the highest levels – it’s fantastic! This is a genuine super-food that can help those suffering with mood swings.
Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a fat-soluble phytonutrient that helps protect vital brain fat, and stops the build up of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression. Lycopene is also linked with glowing skin. It has also been ranked in Eat Feel Fresh's 14 Best Foods For Your Skin - so if life ever throws you a tomato, eat it and be happy!
8. Dark chocolate
Here's another excuse to enjoy your daily dark chocolate - it's proven to make you happy! A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that just a few ounces of dark chocolate a day results in better mood. It provides an instant boost in concentration by improving blood flow to the brain, resulting in you feeling more vibrant and energetic. Go for the highest cocoa percentage (the darker the chocolate, the better).
9 and 10. Eggs and Salmon
We currently have a crush... and it's on Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Don't make fun. Besides maintaining weight and enhancing our beauty, hair and skin, Omega 3 Fatty Acids play a large role in our mood. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for our survival because our bodies are unable to produce it by themselves, similar to protein as discussed in Protein, Misunderstood. Studies show that eating salmon can actually help relieve depression, anxiety, stress and PMS. Omega 3 Fatty Acids nourish our bodies and brains, enhance our mood, keep us energized and not to mention, full. And a full belly is a happy one. It is also proven that Smart People Eat Healthy Fats so get your dose today.
Call them sea shells of happiness! Mussels contain nutrients, such as zinc, iodine and selenium, important in balancing our mood. They keep the thyroid gland, which is pivotal in our mood, stable. Mussels also provide brain-protecting Vitamin B12, a nutrient a large percentage of the population is deficient in and vegetarians also need to pay particular attention to getting enough of. Vitamin B12 protects that precious brain of yours by preserving the myelin sheath that insulates your brain cells. In other words: this helps you stay sharp as a razor as you age and your memories start getting foggy.
12. Goji berries
Goji berries are full of antioxidants which will enhance your well-being and mood. They are also free of sugar and amazing for your skin, hair and overall health. Goji berries are not always easy to access, certainly in the developed part of the world and your best bet for acquiring them is probably in a dried form, which you could add to cereal, salads or simply munch from the pack. You might also want to consider a very good supplement with high concentrations of this wonderful fruit.
Not only are almonds delicious, nutritious and versatile but they are also proven to enhance your mood! Almond's high amino acid count will boost your energy, and when paired with another happy-food, like greek yogurt, honey or dark chocolate, you’ll find yourself on Cloud 9! Almonds increase brain power because they contain phenylalanine, a chemical that passes through our blood-brain barrier and makes our brain produce our natural mood stabilizing hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine, which also reduce pain in the body. Try snacking on almonds; just make sure they are not roasted or salted, which adds tons of gross chemicals and salt, leaving you unhealthy and dehydrated. Also try almond milk... there are lots of flavoursome versions.
14. Pumpkin Seeds
“Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods on the planet,” says Joy Bauer, nutritionist and best-selling author of Slim and Scrumptious. They are one of the highest sources of folic acid, which has been linked to energy, along with magnesium and tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, the happiness chemical. They can also boost your hormone levels, helping regulate your moods. Keep a bag around or add some to your trail mix for a day full of smiles.
Also see: Expectation and happiness