The pursuit of happiness has been a constant one through the ages, and rightly so! It feels great, and research shows happiness is actually good for us too.
While there are many behavioral things we can do to support happiness, food is often forgotten as one of the keys. Yes, you can eat your way to happiness — here’s how!
To prevent dips in mood, maintain a steady, balanced diet full of a variety of whole foods that aren’t processed. Eating more produce will increase your intake of soluble fiber which slows down blood’s absorption of sugar, as well as providing other benefits. The slower sugar gets absorbed, the less sugar highs and lows, and less mood swings. Oats like Thrive Market’s Gluten-Free Rolled Oats are a great source of soluble fiber.
Two B vitamins have been found important in regulating mood – B12 and folate. Folate deficiency has been linked to depression in recent studies. Since folate plays a role in the creation of happy hormones such as serotonin and tryptophan, it makes sense that it might help alleviate symptoms of depression and improve mood. Lentils are one of the best sources of folate. Finding ones that are sprouted boosts vitamins and minerals even more!
There are certain amino acids that our bodies need to feel relaxed and happy. Tryptophan is one of them, and because our body can’t make it on its own, we need to get it from food. Those who don’t get enough of it are at risk for depression and other mood disorders, according to a Leiden University study. One of the richest sources is pumpkin seeds, which makes it easy to get enough. A handful makes for a great mood boosting snack, or you can add them to smoothies, salads, and cereal. Since you know I’m a fan of anything sprouted, I love these raw seeds by Go Raw.
Dark leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse. They’re especially high in potassium, magnesium and calcium which are important to regulate stress hormones, ward off PMS-related blues, and promote sleep — all of which are so important to maintaining happiness. Collard greens, kale, chard, and spinach are all great choices and don’t forget grasses, too. Sometimes it’s hard to eat enough greens every day so organic, high quality powders can be a nice supplement.
My favorite mood booster of all is chocolate. Just the taste obviously makes me really happy, but chemically it also contains a variety of compounds that boost your mood. Some of the most notable ones, aside from the caffeine that gives us more energy, are serotonin (a happiness inducing hormone) and tryptophan (see above). Dark chocolate has the most condensed benefits, and I like mine to also be non-GMO, fair-trade certified (that’s a whole other conversation), and organic. Alter Eco’s dark velvet chocolate bar or dark chocolate truffles take me right to my happy place.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont
Dr. Zelana Montminy has a unique fusion of expertise in the areas of psychology, health, and the media. She is a pioneer in Positive Health, an emerging field focusing on using positive psychology to promote a lifestyle of healthy nutrition and fitness. Dr. Z holds Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Health, and also has a Certification in Nutrition. She regularly appears on television as an expert and host, and is a frequent contributor to a variety of print media.
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