Biting into a piece of dark chocolate or eating a bowl of your favorite dish may make you smile temporarily, but experts say there’s a way to prolong those fleeting feelings of joy.
“There is a link between food and mood,” says nutritional psychiatrist Dr. Uma Naidoo, director of nutritional and metabolic psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of It’s your brain on the food. “Any change you make to your diet will not be [boost happiness] overnight, but they will have an impact over time.
Want happiness that lasts long after your next meal? These eight foods can help.
Add turmeric to soups, stews and smoothies. Curcumin, the active ingredient that gives turmeric its yellow color, has been shown to have antidepressant effects.
For the greatest impact, Naidoo suggests using a quarter teaspoon of turmeric daily and adding a pinch of black pepper, saying, “Black pepper makes curcumin 2,000% more bioavailable.”
Fermented tea could quench your thirst and improve your mood. Kombucha is packed with probiotics, and the live microorganisms appear to have antidepressant effects. Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and author of Eat to overcome depression and anxiety.
“Eating fermented foods leads to a more diverse set of bacteria in the gut, [and] which tends to calm our overactive immune system,” he adds. “Fermented foods are one of the categories of foods that can have a big impact on mental health.”
A little cinnamon has big mood benefits because it’s loaded with antioxidants, fights inflammation and protects against neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Naidoo notes. It also seems to have a mood-boosting effect, so go ahead and sprinkle the tasty spice on toast or add it to coffee for a boost of happiness.
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a lower risk of depression. The happiness superfood is also rich in vitamin B12, a vitamin associated with a positive mood, and may even help prevent depression or improve the impact of antidepressants.
5. Leafy greens
Refuel at the salad bar. Collard greens, spinach, kale, cabbage and other leafy greens contain high levels of magnesium, a nutrient that can boost serotonin, the so-called happiness hormone. Leafy greens also contain a lot of fiber.
“Fiber feeds the microbiome,” says Ramsey. “How clearly you think [and] how anxious you feel… are dictated by the diversity of organisms that live in your gut.
There seems to be a link between depression and the amount of lactobacilli in the gut. Eating yogurt reintroduces the powerful probiotic and may actually reverse symptoms of depression.
“Probiotics can be very powerful when it comes to improving mood, even compared to [antidepressant] medication,” says Naidoo.
Do you follow a vegan diet? Many plant-based yogurts also contain probiotics.
The fewer beans, peas and lentils in your diet, the higher the risk of depression. The benefits of adding legumes to your diet appear to come from high levels of magnesium, tryptophan, fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids which are linked to better moods.
Have a handful of almonds as a snack or add them to salads, yogurts or oatmeal. Regular consumption of nutrient-dense snacks has been linked to lower rates of depression and improved mood. Ramsey credits the healthy fats in almonds and other nuts with the mood benefits.
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