Yes, we can do many small things to elevate mood like getting sufficient sleep, mindfulness meditation, laughing, spending time with pets and joyous people and volunteering, etc. Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat?” And Science shows we could eat our way happier! For years, scientists have treated what we eat as a role player in our emotions and science has proven what we put in our mouth affects what happens out of our head.
There are several foods that aid to lift our mood. The below explained nutrients are packed with essential nutrients that reinforce our brain function, manage stress, and drive us happier. Eating healthy can also promote other encouraging results like Weight loss, overall Physical and improved Psychological health.
How Food Affects Our Moods?
Like other body parts, our brains are built out of the food we eat. “Emotions begin in biology, with two nerve cells rubbing together, and those nerve units are formed of nutrients in food,” explains Ramsey. How can food improve our moods? It again comes back to the brain. A fatty acid called Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is the most abundant fat found in brain. A healthy cognitive system is essential to regulate mood. Some nutrients have a major impact on maintaining normal brain function. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, etc. are not particularly excellent for comprehensive health; many claim mood boosting properties that can reduce anxiety, increase pleasure and fight depression.
Nutrients that Makes Us Happy
Researchers have studied the connection between foods and the brain. They identified nutrients that boost our mood. They are Calcium, Chromium, Protein, Fiber, Folate, Iron, Tryptophan, Selenium, Magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Zinc. We will interpret these one by one.
1) Calcium: The most plentiful mineral in our body. Calcium strengthens bones, prevent osteoporosis, and make us happy. Low levels of calcium may play a role in PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) related depression in particular. Calcium deficiency affects more women than men, so women should take special care to meet the daily requirements.
Food Sources of Calcium – Green leafy Vegetables like Kale, Cabbage, Spinach, Amaranth Grain and Leaves, Sesame seeds, Chia Seeds, Collard Greens. This is available in most Dairy products such as Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, etc.
2) Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 regulates brain work, which influences our emotions. Besides regulating healthy moods, Vitamin B6 is also useful for treating premenstrual depression. We need vitamin to make most of the brain’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin. These chemicals are crucial for joy. Deficiency in B6 can cause short-term anemia; long-term effects include a weakened immune system, confusion, and depression.
Food Sources of Vitamin B6 – Whole Grain Cereals, Vegetables, Soya Beans, Potatoes, Eggs, Chicken, Fish, Pork, Avocados, and Bananas, etc.
3) Vitamin B12: The Vitamin is an important part that helps to create red blood cells and nerves. B12 allows the body for normal function of blood cells and formation of neurotransmitters, otherwise one struggles with mood swings and other psychological troubles. Consuming enough amount of B12 therefore helps brain to synthesize a group of nutrient critical for normal neurological function which makes us happy. Vitamin B12 and other B Vitamins play a role in making brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may relate to depression.
Food Sources of Vitamin B12- Dairy Products, Eggs, Certain Fortified Foods, Meat, Sardines, Tuna, Trout, salmon, and Cod, etc.
4) Tryptophan: This amino acid is used in serotonin synthetization. Serotonin regulates mood and vital in producing healthy sleep. Tryptophan achieves this through serotonin, one of the key brain chemicals involved in regulating mood. Among other functions, serotonin promotes feelings of calm, relaxation, and sleepiness. Lack of serotonin is linked with depression. Many powerful antidepressant drugs work to increase the level of available serotonin in the brain.
Food Sources of Tryptophan- Tryptophan is found in most of the Protein rich foods, Beans, Lentils, Nuts, Seeds, Oats, Eggs, Tofu, Cheese, Red Meat, Chicken, Turkey, Fish and Bananas, etc.
5) Magnesium: Magnesium produces serotonin, which promotes positive mood. Magnesium help us feel happier and less stressed. Studies show that as many as 80% of us are lacking in this mineral! Magnesium deficiency symptoms include fatigue, irritability and mental confusion. Because of its ability to help regulate emotions, it is a common element in homeopathic remedies for balancing mood.
Food Sources of Calcium- Dark Leafy Greens, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, Avocados, Soy, Whole Grains, Yogurt, Swiss chards, and Bananas, etc.
6) Chromium: The mineral plays an important role in increasing the brains level of serotonin, norepinephrine, and melatonin, which help the brain to regulate emotion and mood. Because chromium works directly with the brain’s mood regulators, it has been found to be an effective treatment of depression. We would be able to fight away sadness and feel happier and healthier in everything that comes your way.
Food Sources of Chromium- Broccoli, Whole Grains, Apple, Banana, Grape Juice, Potatoes, Turkey, Green Beans, Milk and Dairy Products, etc.
7) Iron: When our body lacks iron, we start to feel depressed and fatigued. This is largely because iron assists in the production of red blood cells that are responsible for transporting oxygen to various organs in our body. Consuming enough iron helps to prevent iron anemia, a condition that commonly affects women more than men. Keeping enough iron in the body is important, as the fatigue, apathy, and mood change associated with the iron deficiency can often lead to depression.
Food Sources of Iron – Green leafy Vegetables like Spinach, Beans & Lentils, Nuts, Dried Fruits, Whole Grains, Soybean flour, Fortified Breakfast Cereals, and Meat, etc.
8) Vitamin D: If we are feeling sad, increasing vitamin D could help to eliminate depression. Consuming the mood-regulating vitamin is important, especially during the wintertime when light from the sun is limited.
Food sources of Vitamin D- Sunlight, Cheese, Breakfast Cereals, Bread, Mushroom, Juices, Milk, Egg yolks, and Fatty Fish, etc.
9) Folate (Folic Acid): Folate or vitamin B9 is used in the formation of red blood cells and affects neurotransmitters that impact mood. This B9 vitamin regulates our mood and supports the brain’s production of the happy hormone serotonin. A lack of folate or an inability to effectively convert synthetic folic acid to its active form within the body can lead to decreased mental alertness, anxiety and depression.
Food Sources of Folate- Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Asparagus, Legumes, Beets, Fortified Whole Grains, Brussels Sprouts, Sunflower Seeds, Oranges, Melons, Bananas and Papayas, etc.
10) Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids leads to excessive activity in the hypothalamic pituitary axis which plays a central role in regulation of emotion. A number of recent scientific studies that have yielded some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can have anti-depressant effects.
Food Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids- Broccoli, Spinach, Chia Seeds, Fish like Salmon, Sardines, and Herring, etc.
11) Zinc: It improves the immune system and helps us stay focused and alert. The mineral is a key element in most of the cells found in our body. Studies have identified zinc as significant factor in decreasing depressive symptoms, as the vitamin can improve the response of antidepressants while reducing the side effects of anti-depression medication. A lack of zinc can generate depressive behaviors.
Food Sources of Zinc- Beans, Nuts, certain types of Seafood such as crab and lobster, Whole Grains, Fortified Breakfast Cereals, Pumpkin Seeds, Cashews, Dairy products, Oyster, Red meat and Poultry, etc.
12) Dark Chocolate: Dark Chocolate is rich in polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, which are organic compounds that function as antioxidants. Research has found that eating dark chocolate, may reduce stress hormones. The cocoa treat also gives us an instant boost in mood and concentration, and improves blood flow to our brain, helping us feel more vibrant and energized. But do not forget that Moderation is key. Eat quality dark chocolate that is high cocoa content and low sugar. Have a small square or two at a time. Dark chocolate has an effect on the levels of brain endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that our bodies produce.
13) Protein: Protein regulates our hormones. Adding protein to our meals can help slow the absorption of carbohydrates in blood and increase the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which may improve our mood and energy. Since it regulates blood sugar, it helps to avoid mood swings, anxiety and depression.
Food Source of Proteins- Legumes, Soy, Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Beans, Chicken, Oats, Broccoli, Pumpkin Seeds, Brussel Sprouts, Peanuts, Grains, Yogurt, and Seafood, etc.
14) Fiber: Most people eat about a half to a third of the total amount of fiber needed daily. Foods, like complex carbohydrates, that contain soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream and increase serotonin, the feel good chemical, both of which decrease mood swings. Fiber also regulates the blood glucose levels. It promotes bowel movements, enhances digestion, and helps to prevent obesity.
Food Source of Fibers- Cereal, Carrot, Beets, Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Lentils, Beans, Brussel Sprouts, legumes, Apple, Pear, Mango, Banana, Orange, Strawberry, Raspberry, Avocado, Almonds, and Chia seeds, etc.
15) Selenium: Selenium is a mineral that acts like an antioxidant in the body. Research suggests that the presence of oxidative stress in the brain is associated with some cases of mild to moderate depression in the elderly population.
Food Sources of Selenium- Whole grains, Beans, legumes, Chicken, Low fat Diary foods, Seafood, Nuts and Seeds, etc.
Happiness and food are connected, from the pleasure of cooking and eating to the changes in brain chemistry that food can bring about. It is always safer to get required nutrients from foods sources and to discuss any use of supplements with a physician. Since these foods boost our mood, do not get crazy and over eat. We should eat them moderately. Otherwise, they may lead to certain health issues. Still enough research has yet to take place regarding the matter. Avoid saturated fats, Refined Sugars, Highly processed foods, Junk Foods which lowers mood and create many health issues.
Have good food to feel happier. Enjoy eating Happy!