There are many foods out there that can make you happier just by eating them. Usually, this is because the meal was really, really tasty, but sometimes, it has more to do with science than we realize. We call these ingredients Mood Foods for their ability to shed a little sunshine on our attitudes and make us happier over time. In the first Mood Foods article, we looked at some meats and vegetables that fit into this category, but we’ve got more. One may come as a sweet surprise to you. If that wasn’t enough, we’ll also be sharing a third article combining all the ingredients from both articles into a single delicious breakfast! But first, let’s look at a few of the sweeter, but still healthy, foods that can make you happier.
Whole Grains & Oats
The benefit of whole grains to your mood has more to do with bodily regulation and sugars than any specific nutrient. The high content of fiber helps maintain stable levels of blood sugar, which helps prevent mood swings and decreases irritability.
Whole grains are loaded with carbohydrates that aid in the creation of serotonin.
Fiber isn’t the only nutrient that has positive effects on our attitude, though. Whole grains are loaded with carbohydrates that aid in the creation of serotonin, an essential chemical in the body for moderating mood. Too little serotonin can lead to depression, while maintaining a healthy amount aids in sleeping, eating, and cognitive function. In fact, serotonin is so central to happiness that it’s often called a happy hormone, alongside dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. What makes whole grains so great is that they are a healthy source of carbohydrates, which can be fattening from the wrong sources.
Probiotics are becoming a bit of a buzzword with superfoods, but they’re earning that status by actually being really healthy. In terms of your mood, there’s a growing body of evidence that probiotic foods, like yogurt or kombucha, are effective at making you happier. Part of this effect is due to their improvement of gut health, which can assist your mood and the creation of serotonin.
Probiotics have also been shown to improve cognition and make you calmer over time.
It’s not just a promotion of gut health, however. They can also influence your general mental well-being. Probiotics have also been shown to improve cognition and make you calmer over time. Many of the tangential factors of happiness are positively touched by probiotics, too. Studies have linked probiotics with a “significant improvement in mood” by improving quality of sleep and a reduction in anger, fatigue, and depressive moods.
This may be a bit of a “duh” statement, but chocolate makes us happier. Yes, it tastes good and is a nice treat, but it also has several nutrients that improve your mood in a physical sense. A systematic review of studies determined that the majority of analyzed studies saw improvements in mood and cognitive ability due to chocolate intake, though they weren’t certain whether these were because of chocolate just being tasty or the nutritional characteristics. Other research has been more convincing of the nutritional aspects for a mood boost. Scientists from the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland (yes, that Nestle, though this was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Proteome) saw a significant drop in stress (represented by cortisol levels) when subjects ate a moderate amount of dark chocolate each day.
Reducing the inflammation can lower your chances of developing depression.
Dark chocolate is rich in a nutrient called flavanols, which can help reduce mild cognitive impairment and are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation in the brain is one major suspect for a potential cause of depression, so reducing the inflammation can lower your chances of developing depression. Finally, dark chocolate contains a nutrient called theobromine, which has been linked to positive effects on mood at moderate levels.
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It’s incredible that these foods can make you happier in two ways, by tasting great and by adding some healthy nutrients to your body. What’s even better is that these aren’t the only foods that can boost your mood. If you take note of the key nutrients we’ve mentioned — like fiber, carbohydrates, theobromine, and flavanols — you can find them in other foods. We chose these specific options because they’re some of the best sources of those nutrients, and because they could all pair well together. Speaking of that, wouldn’t it be great if we had a recipe to combine them all into a single meal? Oh, we’ve got you covered there. Check out the follow-up post: Mood Foods: A Breakfast That Boosts Your Mood!