Who doesn’t like to be happy? Moreover, who doesn’t like to eat? Here’s the best of both worlds: You can eat for happiness. Fill up on mushrooms, dark chocolate, and plenty of fruits and veggies — you’ll be feeling better in no time!
Don’t be afraid of mushrooms just because they look weird. Mushrooms are actually quite tasty and very healthy. They can also put you in a better mood. Along with vitamin D, copper, and calcium, mushrooms are rich in the mineral selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Selenium helps boost the mood of participants with seasonal affective disorder, and recent research from The Journal of Nutrition has linked selenium deficiency to a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
Since the primary source of selenium is in animal proteins, mushrooms are the best way for vegetarians to obtain the necessary amount of selenium. Mushrooms have a mix of natural antibiotics and essential minerals, which make them super forces in the food world. Selenium aside, an affordable and sustainable healthy food source is something we can all be happy about!
2. Fruits and veggies
In this case, healthier means happier: Eating plenty of fresh produce a day keeps the blues away. One study found that a higher intake of produce resulted in more energy, a sense of calm, and a greater feeling of happiness. They also noted that the effects were seen not only on the days more veggies and fruits were consumed, but also throughout the following day.
Along with being in an overall better mood, participants who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher levels of curiosity and creativity. And for those of you who think one day isn’t enough time to make a difference: Participants tended to score higher on all of those measures on the specific days on which they ate the most fruits and vegetables.
Seven servings a day seems to be the magic number to promote mental well-being, according to another study published in the journal Social Indicators Research. Eat up!
3. Walnuts and other nuts
Not only do walnuts taste good, but they’re also good for you. Nuts, especially walnuts, are loaded with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. When your levels of ALA are low, you feel down. Low ALA levels also spark inflammation, which has been linked to depression. Low ALA decreases levels of the brain chemicals dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of joy, and serotonin, which inhibits anger and aggression.
Including a healthy amount of walnuts in your diet is a great way to avoid depression. Healthy fats, like ALA, are able to ward off sadness and promote mental well being. With so many nut butters, bars, and trail mixes out there, getting more ALA should be a yummy breeze. And, there’s nothing nutty about that.
4. Green tea or coffee
These aren’t truly food, but coffee and tea make such a difference, we had to include them. No matter which camp you stand in, a cup or two of either coffee or tea can have a dramatic effect on your mood. If you prefer tea, sip on this: A study, which had more than 40,000 participants, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that levels of psychological stress were 20% lower in people who drank five or more cups of green tea per day, compared to those who drank less than one.
And for you coffee lovers: Researchers from another study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that women who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were 15% less likely to develop depression over a 10-year span, compared to those who consumed one cup or less each day. Happiness, along with all of the other health benefits — we’ll drink to that!
5. Dark chocolate
Of course, the best is saved for last. With a food as indulgent as dark chocolate, it’s hard to believe it’s actually good for your body and mind.
The antioxidants in dark chocolate — and there are tons — can trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure, and improving circulation. That could be part of the reason why one study found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate daily for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in people who rated themselves as highly stressed.
The key word here is dark. You won’t get the same benefits from milk chocolate, so reach for chocolate that’s at least 70% dark, and enjoy!