The food you eat can have a major impact on your emotions. While it is possible to be happy no matter what you eat, it’s much easier when you support your body with nourishing food.
Eating food that supports good digestion, stable blood sugar levels and balanced hormones creates the chemistry in your body that makes you feel happy.
When you eat lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, healthy oils, low glycemic grains and clean protein, while limiting processed, fried and sugary foods you’ll naturally feel more joy and appreciation in your life.
Here are a few of the key dietary principles to improve and balance your mood with food.
Keep Balanced Blood Sugar Levels
High carbohydrate meals and sugary snacks spike your blood sugar and then you crash. This leads to an imbalance of hormones, especially stress hormones, which makes you cranky or anxious.
Eating meals and snacks with protein, fat and fiber helps keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Enjoy Plenty of Healthy Fats
Your brain loves fat and needs it. Our brain is about 60% fat. It needs good fats to produce neurotransmitters and reduce inflammation. Fats are also essential to our nervous system. The most important fats for our brain are Essential Fatty Acids. We don’t make them in our body, we must get them from the food we eat. The omega 3 fatty acids build a cushion around your brain cells making you feel happier. Here are reasons to avoid vegetable oils.
You need protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals, build and repair tissues. The amino acids in proteins are the precursors to brain neurotransmitters that keep you in a good mood. Our protein needs vary based on individual factors, such as genetics, strength of digestion, activity levels, age and the season that you are in. The recent research indicates starting your day with protein instead carbohydrates helps keep cravings down. According to the RDA adults need about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This works out to be 40-60 grams per day. Aim for 10-20 grams at breakfast.
Maintain A Healthy Digestive System
Gut health has an enormous impact on your happiness. It affects your “feel-good” chemicals. Serotonin is coined as the ‘happy hormone,’ and 95 percent of it is produced in the gut. According to microbiologist Kiran Krishnan, dopamine production starts in the gut. “The reward centers depend on dopamine, which is released when you eat good food.”
7 Foods to Improve Your Mood
While there is no one specific superfood that will make you happy, here are 7 mood boosting foods that are healthy, satisfying and delicious. I also give a little explanation why they are so good for your happiness and a few recipes.
Salmon is high in Omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for brain and nervous system development. The omega 3’s cushion your brain cells helping mood and memory. Studies show it can alleviate depression.
Salmon is also high in protein and B vitamins which help convert amino acids into neurotransmitters. It will not only make you feel better today, it cuts your risk of dementia down the road as well. Choose Wild salmon or Sockeye Salmon if you can find it, if not at least look for organic farm raised to get the best quality.
- Balancing Lemon Garlic Herb Crusted Salmon
- Salmon with Almond Horseradish Dill Crust
- Quick and Easy Salmon Cakes with Avocado Cream
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark Leafy Greens are rich in a wide variety of nutrients, including fiber to balance blood sugar, B vitamins to boost brain function, and iron. They are also high in folic acid . The B vitamins are used by the body to create serotonin, one of the key neurotransmitters that help normalize mood.
Dark leafy greens also contain magnesium, which can increase serotonin levels and boost your mood. About half of all Americans are low in magnesium, and this deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
The best sources are kale, dandelion, spinach, collards, Swiss chard, mizuna, mustard greens or whichever dark leafy greens you enjoy.
- Roasted Butternut Squash with Crispy Kale and Pomegranate Seeds
- Sauteed Kale with Carrots and Fennel
- Sautéed Spinach with Caramelized Mushrooms
Chocolate makes you happy and it’s not just because it taste so good. It contains phenylethylamine which is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when we’re in love. It also contains tryptophan a chemical that is used to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and satisfied.
Studies on chocolate show it can improve mood and cognition, plus it’s a rich source of antioxidants, iron and magnesium to help us relax. Choose dark chocolate and make recipes with raw cacao and cacao nibs.
Chia seeds are a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. They are also high in fiber which cleanses and protects your digestive system. Because of its high soluble fiber content, chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach. They allow slow absorption of your food helping to keep your blood sugar stable. Use in smoothies and desserts.
Turkey is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps us produce the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. It also has tyrosine, another amino acid that is a precursor to brain neurotransmitters.
Turkey contains zinc, a mineral not stored by the body and must be consumed daily. Zinc plays a very important role in a positive state of mind, and your general feelings of happiness. Zinc deficiencies have been linked to mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Lentils are powerful mood boosters, high in protein and easy to digest. They may be tiny but their high fiber content is good for your gut and helps with blood sugar control. They provide a good supply of vitamin B6 and folate. The B vitamins help our bodies make mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Fermented Foods – The gut-brain-mood connection is well documented since 95% of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. A healthy microbiome will improve your mood. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kombucha and diary free yogurt are fantastic sources of healthy bacteria from probiotics.
Sauerkraut is my go-to mood boosting food, great for reducing inflammation and supporting immunity. Add a few tablespoons to your vegetables at lunch and dinner.
By incorporating these mood boosting foods into your regular diet, you’ll find yourself feeling happier and lighthearted.