Food can be one of the keys to staying happy. You may think sacking out in front of the TV with a bag of chips or a greasy pizza or burger makes you happy, but this kind of happiness is fleeting. There are foods however that can give you a physical mood boost and support good health which makes you feel better in the long run and leads to happiness. As Travis Stork, MD says, the food we eat can support the ability the body has to heal itself. There are also foods that stimulate chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood boost and our feelings of happiness.
Foods for Mood Boost
Foods that give you a mood boost are those that provide you with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that create sustained energy levels and those that have the nutrition to affect chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood and that help you get good quality sleep which is important in the staying happy formula.
Omega-3 fatty acids – When looking for foods to add to your diet that fall into this definition, those that have omega-3 fatty acids are at the top of the list. Studies show that having a diet lacking in omega-3’s can be linked to depression and low mood. One study done with bipolar participants was scheduled to go for nine months and stopped after four because of the mood improvement brought on by omega-3’s. Other studies have documented a decrease in depression and suicide risk due to omega-3’s added to the diet. Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, flounder, haddock, and herring, shrimp, dark-green leafy vegetables, various seeds like flax, chia and hemp, nuts, olive oil and AFA bluegreen algae are all rich in omega-3. Omega-3’s have also been found to help stiff and painful joints and when you are pain free your mood is definitely better.
Foods for better sleep – Not getting enough sleep can certainly leave you cranky, fatigued, irritable and in a bad mood. Tart cherries are full of the hormone melatonin that can help with better sleep. The older we get the less melatonin we make naturally. Stress can also affect melatonin production. Tart cherries have the added benefit of anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to reduce pain and soreness from physical work-outs. A diet lacking in copper has also been found to contribute to poor sleep. Bananas, avocado, potatoes, oysters, kale, shiitake mushrooms, and chickpeas are all good foods for adding copper to your diet. Not only do cherries aid in better quality sleep, they are also a good source of antioxidants that fight off the damaging free radicals that can affect the brain and its mood boosting chemicals.
Whole grains – Carbs from whole grains give you a boost in serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the brain chemical that produces feelings of calmness and happiness, reduces cravings for less healthy foods, aids sleep, and regulates mood. Whole grains have tryptophan which helps in producing serotonin. The fiber in whole grains also helps stabilize blood sugar levels giving you more energy. Amaranth is an especially good grain with lots of antioxidants, minerals, fiber and iron. According to Elizabeth Somer, RD, Food & Mood author, protein foods can reduce serotonin levels because the amino acids they have keep tryptophan from getting to your brain. So when eating whole grains for a mood boost, eat them separate from proteins. Whole grains have the added advantage of lowering your chances for reflux as according to Ronald Primas, MD, Mount Sinai Hospital instructor of medicine, eating foods high in fiber keeps food moving through the stomach so it doesn’t have the chance for food and acid to come back up.
Vitamin D – Mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light are full of vitamin D that helps in giving you a mood boost. Vitamin D affects the neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine that all affect mood. It is estimated that more than half of all Americans don’t get enough vitamin D and studies show there is an increased risk for depression due to lack of vitamin D. A single cup of mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light can give you 100% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin D. Mushrooms also have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and give your immune system a boost. The healthier your immune system is, the less likely you are to contract colds, flus and other illnesses that do nothing for your happiness level. We also get vitamin D by exposure to sunlight and not getting enough time in the sun can lower production of serotonin and dopamine. Vitamin D is also essential for good bone health as it helps the body in absorbing calcium.
B vitamins – Another vitamin important to serotonin production is B9 or folate. Folate aids the brain in producing serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which are all brain chemicals affecting mood. Folate can be found in dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and in Brussel sprouts, beans such as pinto and garbanzo, asparagus, peanuts, soybeans, liver, lentils and sunflower seeds. Low Vitamin B6 levels can also contribute to depression. Foods high in Vitamin B6 include papaya, oranges, tuna, chicken, turkey, rice and wheat bran, garlic, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
Chlorophyll – Adding foods rich in chlorophyll to your diet is another way to boost mood. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in plants that captures sunlight and converts it to usable sugars and foods. Chlorophyll is effective in rebuilding the blood and has also been shown to stimulate liver function and excretion of bile, strengthen immunity, and detoxify chemical pollutants. Numerous recent studies have also indicated that chlorophyll has anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties. Eating green foods can help replenish red blood cells thus boosting energy. The immune system particularly benefits from the chlorophyll in green foods since it is able to kill off bacteria and viruses and replenishes red and white blood cells which are part of the immune system. Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, cereal grasses like wheat and barley grass are great sources of chlorophyll as is AFA blue-green algae. AFA bluegreen algae also increases the production of mood-elevating substances in the brain, including tryptophan, endorphins, serotonin, and PEA. AFA has the lipopolysaccharides and C-phycocyanin that stimulate your natural stem cell activity and macrophages which support your immune system function. It is loaded with antioxidants in its trace minerals, vitamins, and pigments and has all the essential amino acids humans require. The amino acids in this form of AFA in particular provide the building blocks of healthy nerve cells and neurotransmitters vital for proper brain function The deep blue pigment in this algae comes from PEA (Phenylethylamine) which is a precursor to an amino acid functioning as a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator. For an added boost to the immune system this algae/enzyme supplement provides the nourishment of plant-based proteolytic enzymes to combat stress of cellular oxidation and support the body’s natural healing abilities.
As Hippocrates, stated way back in 431 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Find your way to good health and happiness through these types of foods and you’ll discover the secrets to staying happy.
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Edible Microalgae, Jeffrey Bruno