Believe it or not the modern Western diet has contributed more than just making your belly bigger.
These 17 foods that improve mood will help combat the depressive and anxiety like symptoms that come with eating a bad diet.
We all like to feel good and have a lot of energy. Unfortunately the modern Western diet is wreaking havoc on not only our bodies, but our minds.
It’s all too tempting to eat junk food today giving us a temporary high. Shortly afterwards you know what it’s like to feel the crashing and burning.
Food manufacturers, soda companies and fast food restaurants know all too well how to appeal to this side of us.
Once we see an immaculately made and delicious cheeseburger advertisement we instantly want that quick dopamine rush of eating it.
This short-lived mood boost lasts a very short while as soon afterwards your body, gut and mind feels like a rocket that just crash landed.
The secret to improving your mood is through eating the right foods.
Why You Need Foods That Help With Depression
One of the biggest causes of depression and mental disorders is a massive amount of inflammation in your body caused by an omega-6/omega-3 imbalance.
For just about all human existence we really didn’t have a problem keeping this ratio in balance.
W we went off the deep end with the abundant amount of junk foods high in omega-6’s.
Too few omega-3’s in our diets has brought about inflammation in your mind, body and gut.
This is according to a meta-analysis is the driving force behind mental disorders including anxiety and depression today.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found women who eat white bread and pasta had a much greater risk of depression.
The link between higher bad carbohydrate consumption and depression amongst the 70,000 female participants prove your diet is critical to your mental health and happiness.
Missing micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from your diet become deficiencies in your body.
These micronutrient deficiencies are common causes for depression, inflammation and chronic diseases.
Filling out these missing micronutrients by eating the right foods can help ensure you live a happier life.
We all like to feel good and I’ve never met anybody who didn’t want to be happy.
With these foods that improve mood and happiness you’ll discover some ways to do just that.
17 Foods That Improve Mood & Happiness
I’m not talking about a Snickers bar here.
I’m talking about dark chocolate that doesn’t have any sugar and is high in cocoa.
The polyphenols in dark chocolate are what is going to boost your mood when you’re feeling down.
The Journal of Psychopharamcology found those who ate dark chocolate had the greatest boost in mood, feeling calmer and more content.
You can easily find this dark chocolate in your local health food store.
I also like to use this raw cocoa powder in my protein shakes to enhance the polyphenol benefits.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Your brain is mostly made up from fats so it’s vitally important to make sure you’re getting enough of the good ones in your diet.
Virgin coconut oil helps to fight inflammation in the brain as it gives it an easy source for fuel.
The power lies in the one-of-a-kind medium chained fatty acids (MCTs) in coconut oil.
It’s a little crazy to hear this since the MCTs in coconut oil are technically a saturated fat.
But since they’re “medium chain” they’re broken down first by your liver where you’ll get all the benefits without the negative side effects.
Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found those who took virgin coconut oil had a higher success rate in treating stress symptoms than anxiety medication.
Just make sure you seek out virgin coconut oil.
Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil is a brand I like to use. It’s cold pressed and their manufacturing process is top notch.
Virgin coconut oil is best as refined coconut oil is heavily processed which degrades its quality.
Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas)
Next time you’re looking for a quick snack you might want to grab some hummus.
Garbanzo beans are naturally high in folate giving your mood a quick pick-me-up.
A deficiency in folate (vitamin B9) has been linked to depression. For many it’s difficult to get this critical vitamin into your diet.
The theory is a deficiency in this vital vitamin can alter the production of serotonin in your brain making you more likely to have depression.
Increasing your folate levels can work so well doctors are now prescribing it to their patients who are battling depression.
Everybody loves a good reason for drinking more coffee.
Coffee helps you lose weight and another great reason to drink it is for it’s mood boosting benefits.
The caffeine in coffee increases your metabolism giving you a quick jump in energy for the morning along.
Just ask me my morning coffee makes me happy every day. You don’t want to know my mood without it. Haha
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research published a meta-analysis of studies finding coffee will help protect against depression.
Coffee also contains antioxidants to fight off the inflammatory damage caused by free radicals.
Most diets today are deficient in selenium, and the best food to improve this are Brazil nuts.
Selenium is the key to master antioxidants glutathione peroxidase.
This protects your cell membranes from otherwise building up toxic gunk in your system.
Brazil nuts will help to increase your serotonin production as well.
Pregnant women who received 100 mcg of selenium daily showed significantly decreased postpartum depression.
All you really need is a handful of Brazil nuts daily to improve your mood and make you happier.
Just 6-8 Brazil nuts contain 544 mcg of selenium, which is 544% your daily requirement.
I like to eat some Brazil nuts every other morning with my egg rich breakfast.
Oysters are the food with the most abundant source of zinc on the planet.
Zinc is another critical mineral for the health of your body and mind.
Unfortunately, this is also another micronutrient deficiency causing us to feel down in the dumps.
Oysters will help you replenish zinc stores as this mineral is used by more enzymes than any other.
Zinc activates digestive enzymes breaking down food allowing you to absorb all the powerful nutrients.
It also helps to repair DNA, control inflammation and boost your immune system.
It is a very powerful anti-inflammatory helping you to improve your mood and stay young.
Reducing the inflammation in your body will fight the damage preventing premature aging.
When taking turmeric make sure to crack some black pepper on top of it.
This dramatically helps to increase the absorbability of turmeric.
Without it you’ll only be getting a fraction of its benefits.
I like to sprinkle some turmeric and black pepper on top of my eggs in the morning to easily get this powerful anti-inflammatory super spice.
You might know from Popeye eating spinach can make you strong, but bet you didn’t know it can boost your mood too.
Most of us are getting enough greens, and the resulting deficiency in magnesium is a cause for depression.
Magnesium plays a very large role in the biochemical activities in your body such as cell transportation.
This essential mineral is often called, “the most powerful relaxation mineral that exists.”
A deficiency in magnesium has been linked to depression, and this can easily be remedied by eating green leafy vegetables especially spinach.
The magnesium RDA for men is 400 mg and women it’s 350 mg yet most people only get around 250 mg daily.
Just one cup of spinach has 157 mg of magnesium making up 40% of your daily needs.
Next time you cook up a steak for dinner be sure to sautéed some spinach with it to get the mood boosting benefits..
The problem with most beef today is its from cows that have been corn-fed and pumped with antibiotics.
This severely diminishes the nutritional content of the beef to the point it’s only a fraction of what it should be.
Beef from grass-fed cows is the best with its high quality protein, healthy fats, omega-3’s, vitamin B12 and iron.
Grass-fed beef is significantly higher omega-3’s and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) than other sources of beef.
Omega-3’s have been linked with fighting inflammation thus improving your mood.
Iron deficiency is common in women today with it affecting 20% and 50% of those pregnant.
This leads to anemia causing symptoms such as fatigue, irritability and brain fog.
Eating more grass-fed beef into your diet will help to improve your iron stores and omega-3’s to have a happier and healthier life.
Avocados are not only delicious but they’ll also help you burn fat, fight inflammation and improve your mood.
Growing up and living in California I’ve eaten more avocados than I could can count.
I absolutely love them and the benefits they’ll give to you are sky high.
Avocados are rich in omega-3’s tryptophan, folate, potassium and monounsaturated fats.
All of these will help to fight inflammation helping to regulate your brains neurotransmitters.
Both of which improve the quality of your mood while helping to burn fat off your belly.
Oh yeah and did I already mention they’re absolutely delicious.
Strawberries, along with other berries are a great food to improve your mood.
They’re high in antioxidants and polyphenols helping to fight off inflammation in your body.
They’re also high in vitamin C giving your immune system a power up every time you eat them.
It’s also much easier to get strawberries and other berries into your diet since they’re so tasty and easy to eat.
In the summer I’ll pick up a huge box of strawberries and eat a handful at a time to give my mood a boost.
As one of my weight loss drinks green tea is rich in the depression fighting amino acid theanine.
Green tea is also very high in Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
EGCG is a powerful antioxidant and polyphenol helping to lower inflammation.
This meta-analysis of 11 studies involving 22,817 participants found those drinking 3 cups of green tea a day were 37% less likely to suffer from depression.
That’s an overwhelming amount of evidence proving the mood boosting benefits of drinking green tea.
It’ll also help you lose weight by increasing your fat burning metabolism.
As part of my routine I like to drink coffee and in the mornings and green tea early in the afternoon.
It’s a great pick me up for your mind and stomach.
Salmon one of the best fish for weight loss while improving your mood at the same time.
The high amount of omega-3’s in this super fish reduce inflammation in your body.
Salmon also helps to increase blood flow while modifying dopamine and serotonin. All known to improve your mood.
Salmon is also very high in vitamin B12. This study found those suffering from depression where best at fighting it with the highest b12 levels.
And the American Journal of Clinical Depression found fish can help fight depression. Fish makes up a big part of Mediterranean, Norwegian and Japanese diets.
Just make sure you find Alaskan Wild-Caught salmon as I wouldn’t recommend eating farmed salmon because of its low omega-3 and high antibiotics.
Eggs from pastured chickens are the best as they’re high in vitamin D, B vitamins and omega-3’s.
Vitamin D can be hard to get during the winter months contributing to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
You’ll notice a boost in your mood when you get outside in the sunshine as your body soaks in the vitamin D.
Eating eggs is a good way to also get your vitamin D especially in those dark and cold winter months.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found those with a lower intake of B vitamins were at a higher risk of depression.
Eggs are quite high in B vitamins so you’ll see an increase of energy and mood by eating them.
Yes eggs are healthy for you! Be sure to eat the yolks too for all the benefits of eggs.
Just make sure you don’t buy the caged corn-fed chickens as they don’t contain near the vitamins and omega-3’s as their pastured friends.
Greek yogurt made my list of superfoods for a very good reason.
It’s not only high in protein, but it’s also very good for the health of your gut.
Research has found bad gut health from eating bad carbs and foods to be linked to depression and anxiety.
The microbiota in your gut thrives off eating probiotics and probiotics which is where Greek yogurt comes in.
It’s not only rich in calcium, protein and vitamin D but it’s loaded with probiotics to improve your gut.
Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found the probiotics in yogurt can reverse depressive symptoms.
If you’re looking for the best probiotic for men then take a look at my blog post.
Greek yogurt makes an easy and delicious snack you can eat before bedtime.
Just make sure you don’t eat one that’s has added sugars as it could take away some of the benefits from eating it.
Turkey isn’t only a great choice for Thanksgiving, but it should be eaten year round.
Turkey is rich in protein and tryptophan. Gobble Gobble.
Most of us know tryptophan will make you fall asleep quicker, but it’s also an amino acid that’s commonly used in antidepressants.
Trypophan helps to boost serotonin production in your brain to give you a quick boost in happiness.
Trypophan in turkey fights depression ensuring proper brain function.
Eating seaweed might sound a little strange but just hear me out on this one.
Iodine deficiency is becoming quite common today.
Iodine is critical for your thyroid to work properly as it’s responsible for your energy, metabolism, body temperature, growth, immune system and brain power.
When your thyroid isn’t working properly it’ll lead to you gaining weight and feeling depressed.
The National Health Nutritional Examination Survey reported iodine levels dropped 50% over the past 30 years.
Seaweed is the food with the highest amount of iodine in it.
If you don’t like seaweed you can try supplementing with kelp or eating cod to get your iodine in.
Another killer plant to fight anxiety and depression is CBD oil. Try taking it a couple times a day to improve your mood.
The Last Word
These 17 foods that improve mood will also increase your overall happiness throughout your life.
Sure, junk and sugary foods give you that quick high, but you’ll crash soon afterwards.
Long term solutions to improving your mood and fighting depression can be found from eating the right foods.
Inflammation and micronutrient deficiencies are common causes of feeling down in the dumps.
Just by eating some foods to boost your mood you can live a happier life.
A study of more than 15,000 people over 10 years found those on a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of depression.
Many of the foods listed above are included in this type of diet.
Next time you’re feeling down just start eating some of the foods above to give yourself a mood boost.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.