Have you ever considered eating your way to happiness? We don’t mean indulging in French fries and chocolate cake whenever the urge strikes, but regularly consuming foods that have shown to increase feelings of wellbeing and happiness. We’re talking about healthy foods that have been shown to support brain health and trigger the release of certain compounds that can naturally boost happiness and increase your mood.
What we eat has a direct impact on the way we feel, both physically and mentally. While the way you feel is dependent on several different factors including genetics, stress, sleep, nutritional deficiencies and more, the foods you choose to consume really can impact your mental wellbeing.
Following are a few foods that have shown to improve mood, boost brain health, and trigger feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
10 Foods that May Increase Happiness and Support Mental Wellbeing
1. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in mood-boosting compounds said to trigger a cascade of feel-good chemicals. Not only that, dark chocolate contains anandamide, the endocannabinoid also referred to as the “bliss molecule” for its role in generating feelings of happiness. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, a large percentage of which are flavonoids known for their positive influence on brain function.
2. Nuts & Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds all have one thing in common when it comes to increasing feelings of wellbeing. These nuts and seeds are all rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that’s responsible for producing serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter associated with an elevated mood.
Berries are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods that exist and are suggested to do wonders for increasing happiness and generating feelings of wellbeing. It’s said that consuming a diet full of antioxidants may help manage inflammation that’s linked to mood imbalance. Berries are also high in flavonoids, particularly anthocyanins which are associated with lower levels of depression.
A banana a day just might keep a bad mood at bay. Bananas contain both fiber and sugar, which when combined allow sugar to slowly release into the bloodstream. This can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent crashes. Bananas are also loaded with vitamin B6, which helps create feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
5. Probiotic-Rich Foods
You’ve likely heard how important probiotic-rich foods are for gut health. Did you know that up to 90% of serotonin is actually produced in the gut? Healthy gut bacteria is also linked with lower depression rates. Yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut are all beneficial probiotic-rich foods suggested to improve gut health, which may ultimately improve your mood.
6. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a positive mood, but because they aren’t produced by the body they must be obtained from omega-rich foods. Fatty fish (think tuna, salmon, and anchovies) are notably high in DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids shown to modulate brain cell signaling that support both serotonin and dopamine function, which is suggested to modulate several mood disorders.
7. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are a boon for a better mood, as they’re rich in B vitamins that are shown to increase levels of feel-good compounds like dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine, which all play an integral role in mood regulation.
Certain grains have also been shown to boost happiness. Take oats, for instance. Oats are high in fiber, which can slow down carbohydrate digestion, which then slows down the rate sugar is released into the bloodstream, helping with mood stabilization. Quinoa is another great grain for stabilizing blood sugar, which can help with irritability and energy crashes. It’s also high in quercetin, a flavonoid high in antioxidants suggested to contain brain-protective properties.
9. Green Tea
Bursting with antioxidants, green tea might be one of the healthiest beverages in the world. It’s full of compounds known to support brain health and a better mood. Green tea is rich in catechins, a type of flavonoid that helps reduce free radicals in the body. It’s especially high in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which makes up over 40% of the dry weight of green tea. EGCG is suggested to promote feelings of calm and improve brain function.
While drinking too much coffee might trigger anxiety, a little coffee goes a long way when it comes to boosting feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Coffee stimulates the release of dopamine and norepinephrine and contains other compounds aside from caffeine that are believed to positively influence one’s mood.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.