By Jaime Mathews

Eat, Drink, and Be Happy: 5 Foods that Improve Your Mood

In the Kitchen

The Sweet Life

December 8, 2021

We are what we eat. Food can have a tremendous impact on our moods. Here are 5 foods that will improve our state of mind!

The holidays are often filled with food, friends, and shopping frenzies. But this time of year can also be a time of melancholy. The holidays can remind us of loved ones who are no longer with us, holiday traditions that are no longer celebrated, or disappointment for the past year’s circumstances. But there is hope! If you are feeling down this time of year, aim to add a few mood-boosting foods to your diet. 

These 5 mood-boosting foods will pack your belly with nutrients while working wonders on your happiness levels: 

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and albacore tuna contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that our bodies desperately need but cannot make on their own. These fatty fish contain two omega-3s: DHA and EPA (I will spare you the long, always misspelled and mispronounced scientific names: their acronyms are more commonly recognized). Studies have found that these fatty acids help lower feelings of depression. Eating these omega-3 packed fish a few times per week can greatly benefit your nutrition needs while helping you feel happier. 

Dark Chocolate

First off, you’re welcome. Yes, there are sweet little treats that have beneficial nutritional and mood-boosting compounds. But let’s get a few things straight off the bat: not all chocolate is the same. Milk chocolate contains added sugars and fat, so ideally, you want to steer clear of that form of sweetness. But dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids or higher is optimal) has been shown to have several health and mood promoting benefits. Dark chocolate contains a high level of flavonoids, which are phytonutrients found in plant compounds. Flavonoids are shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, and help prevent oxidative damage to cells, so consuming this antioxidant rich food can help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, even cancer. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, so keep reading to learn about its happiness increasing, nutritionally packed benefits. 

But let me bring you off the dark chocolate sugar rush for a moment: moderation is still the name of the game with this food. Can the smell, taste, and texture of dark chocolate be enough to boost most people’s mood? Absolutely. But dark chocolate, even in its perfect cocoa percentages, is still a high-calorie food, so eating 1 to 2 small squares remains your healthiest option for nutrition needs while giving you a little extra pep in your step. 

Coffee

A little cup o’ joe continues to remain the world’s most popular drink. Maybe that’s because there is a Starbucks on nearly every street corner in the country or maybe, just maybe, it is due to the healthy and happy compounds linked to this little cup of frothy goodness. The caffeine in java has a naturally occurring compound called adenosine, which helps increase attention and alertness. And, coffee increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Let’s talk about these two for a moment. Norepinephrine helps regulate everything from sleep to alertness to blood pressure. And dopamine positively affects motivation, the perception of reality, and the ability to experience pleasure.  

And for those who cannot tolerate caffeine (like myself), good news! Even decaffeinated coffee is shown to have some of these similar health and mood-boosting benefits. So sip up!

Berries

Did you know that eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to lower rates of depression? See, your mama was right when she told you to eat your greens! But all kidding aside, fiber-rich fruits like berries are packed with nutrition while also supplying a little extra dose of happiness. Berries contain a high level of anthocyanins, the pigments that give certain fruits and vegetables their bright blue, purple, and red coloring. These antioxidant-rich pigments may have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties, which are not only healthy for our bodies, but they play a major role in our mood as well. One study found that diets rich in anthocyanins reduce the onset of depression symptoms by 39 percent.  

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds may very well be one of nature’s most valuable foods. These foods are packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber, and these three are something that everyone—everyone!—needs in their diet. These delectable little grab-and-go foods contain tryptophan, zinc, and selenium, which are all shown to boost mood, while providing our bodies with essential compounds. In fact, a ten-year study of nearly 16,000 people concluded that a moderate intake of nuts decreased the risk of depression by 23 percent. 

Other mood-boosting foods include fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, and yogurt, to name a few. 

Bonus Holiday Tip

For all of you charcuterie board lovers (I love this appetizer so much), try substituting a few of the salamis, prosciutto, and mortadella, and instead add an extra mixture of nuts and seeds (Brazil, walnuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds, to name a few), a heap of fresh raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries, and a few squares of dark chocolate. Fill your belly with healthy goodness while feeding yourself and your loved ones an extra dose of happy.

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Jaime Mathews      Author

Jaime is a woman of many hats: follower of Jesus, wife, mama of three, homeschooler, business owner, blogger, writer and aspiring homesteader. Follow her on instagram @jaimeleemathews.

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