Photo of a cup of espresso with chocolate bonbons.

Chicago Home and Lifestyles – Foods that can make you happy

Photo of a cup of espresso with chocolate bonbons.

We are all searching for happiness. So, we try to improve our mental well-being in traditional ways like therapy, meditating, and exercise. But do you know that food can make your mood better? Studies in the past decade have linked nutrition and mental health. There are some foods that will increase serotonin levels in our brains. Serotonin regulates mood, and low levels can cause mood instability. So, what are the best foods to raise serotonin?

Bananas are good for your mood. Your body needs vitamin B6 to create serotonin, and bananas are rich in this nutrient. It contains 25% of your daily recommended amount. 

Coconut is another food that can help boost your energy. It is loaded with medium-chain triglycerides. An animal study in 2017 found these may reduce anxiety. Although more testing needs to be done, there does seem to be a link between anxiety and coconut in humans. 

Coffee has been on many lists for the last 50 years. It has been touted as both bad and good almost at the same time. But recent studies have found coffee consumption is significantly associated with a decreased risk of depression. Another study concluded both caffeinated and de-caffeinated coffee improved subject’s mood compared to those who drank a placebo. Of course, the tests call for moderate consumption. 

Dark chocolate has been shown to be beneficial. The three main components in dark chocolate can improve your mood. The two amino acids, tryptophan and phenylethylalanine work together. The former helps produce serotonin while the latter is used to produce dopamine which is an anti-depressant. It tastes great too! Make sure to eat dark chocolate with a high percentage. 

Fruit and vegetables we know are good for us, but a couple of them may go further to improve our mental health. Berries in particular are fruits rich in antioxidants which may reduce depression. Blueberries, called a superfood, can slow cognitive decline. Avocados are rich in choline, which your body uses to regulate mood and your nervous system. They also contain a good amount of Vitamin B that can lower stress. 

Fermented foods are coming into great favor. Fermentation helps you maintain a healthy gut and can improve your mood. The process creates probiotics that support heathy bacteria. Up to 90% of your serotonin produced in your body comes from gut cells. So, make sure to include some fermented foods in your diet. There are several to choose from; yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut are but a few. 

So, next time you think you need a pick-me-up, stay away from the sugary snacks that will only bring you up just to crash soon afterward. Try to incorporate some of these healthy foods to improve your health along with your mood!

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago