Your brain and your body can often feel like they’re operating on two different wavelengths: sometimes, your body tells you to take a nap when your brain knows you’ve still got work to do, or your belly just screams for a candy bar when your brain definitely knows better. However, when it comes to your mood, your food choices and your feelings go hand-in-hand more often than you might think.
While a greasy plate of fries or sugary snack may temporarily alleviate a bad mood, long-term happiness is rarely doled out at a drive-thru. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods with proven mood-boosting benefits that can help you get happier and healthier with every bite. So, before you dive headfirst into another value meal, add these foods that make you happy to your menu.
Here are 50 foods that make you happy and boost your overall mood. And to make sure you’re staying as healthy as possible, be sure to try out any of these Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.
One of the best choices of foods that make you happy? Halibut. A steamed piece of halibut has an impressive amount of protein and influences your serotonin levels. It’s also ranked as one of the most filling foods, according to The Satiety Index of Common Foods, an Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The moral of the story? Bust out of a hangry mood with a little halibut.
When your hormones are all over the place (PMS, stress at work, whatever), you wind up craving carb-rich foods because they help comfort your hormonal rollercoaster. But cookies won’t make you nearly as happy (or thin) as a complex carb like whole grain bread. However, unlike cookies, those whole grains can improve the number of good bacteria in your gut, which can have a profound influence on your mood. When you can’t stand the sight of another sandwich, the healthy sources of carbs will help you fill up and slim down.
It’s hard to beat the amazing beet. Beets contains betaine, which supports serotonin production in the brain, elevating your mood along the way. Beets also have a potent dose of folic acid in them, which stabilizes emotional and mental health, improving your chances of happiness with every bite.
Seaweed—yes, like in your sushi or on the side as a salad—is packed with depression-fighting iodine, which isn’t always so easy to find in food (and no, please don’t start downing spoonfuls of iodized salt to get enough). Iodine is critical for your thyroid to function properly, which influences your energy, weight, and even your brain functions, leaving you feeling blue when you have too little, and a whole lot happier when you’re meeting your goals.
Now that the temperature is dipping, your circadian rhythm may be thrown off by the decrease of (natural) light, making it harder to sleep at night and to stay on top of your game during the day. Research shows that chamomile tea not only brings on better sleep but improves your cognitive functioning during the day, too. Who hasn’t felt a little worse for wear when they’re running low on sleep?
Darkly colored berries lead to weight loss, decreasing the formation of fat cells by up to 73%—that alone will improve your mood. But berries also carry heavy doses of vitamin C. Too little C—a possibility when you’re hunkering down on comfort foods and no longer enjoying a summer bounty of tomatoes, peppers, and fruit salads—can lead to fatigue, depression, low motivation, and the general feeling that you’re sloshing around in wet snow boots 24/7. Blueberries just so happen to be a great source of resveratrol, an antioxidant pigment that research published in Frontiers in Endocrinology has linked to relief from depression.
A few cocktails may make you feel giddy for the moment, but red wine can help make you happier in the long-term. Red wine is not only good for your heart health, researchers in Spain have also linked drinking the occasional glass of red wine with reduced depression risk. Red wine also happens to be a good source of resveratrol, a pigment found in grapes that has been linked to reductions in belly fat and improved mood. Salud!
Eggs are loaded with mood-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodide, and because they’re packed with protein, they’ll also keep you full and energized long after you eat them. Need another reason to crack some shells in the morning? A 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who ate two eggs for breakfast lost significantly more weight than those who chowed down on a bagel.
Pro tip: don’t buy into unregulated supermarket-egg claims like “omega-3 enriched” or “free-range.” If you’re looking for the most natural eggs, hit up a local farmer. Make sure you’re not being duped by food marketing by wising up to these nutrition myths!
Why red? Aren’t all peppers the same? In fact, red bell peppers—which have been allowed to ripen on the vine and not picked when still green—have considerably higher nutrient scores than their underdeveloped brethren—more than double the vitamin C and up to 8 times as much vitamin A. In a recent survey of nutrient density, researchers at William Paterson University ranked red peppers as second only to leafy greens as the most potent of vegetables. The higher concentration of vitamins helps to improve your mood directly, as well as boost your immune system and lessen cold symptoms.
Stir-fry or roast them if you’re not down with nibbling them raw to get the most of their vitamins and nutrients.
Coconut is chock-full of medium-chain triglycerides, fats that fuel better moods; a joint study from researchers at Yale and SUNY Albany even found this tasty treat has a neuroprotective effect. And although coconut is commonly found in high-calorie desserts, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) stuff your face with macaroons to get your fix. Try using some coconut cream in your coffee, adding some unsweetened flakes to your favorite baked good, or just crack a fresh one open and go to town.