7 Evidence - Based FOODS to Boost Your Happiness Hormones!
BY PUREHEALTH RESEARCH | Jun 14, 2021
We all get blue now and again. And when you feel that way, the tendency is to reach for “something” to make you feel better. Ice cream, cake, and chocolate come directly to mind. However, these foods give you an immediate sugar rush that lifts your spirits for about an hour or two only to crash, leaving you worse off than when you started. Not to mention the “moment over the lips and forever on the hips” – or belly – consequences.
But there’s great news! Certain foods can help boost your happiness hormones and elevate your mood. It’s important to note that many factors can affect your mood, including stress, environment, poor sleep, genetics, mood disorders, and nutritional deficiencies.1 2 3 Addressing these issues with your doctor and adding mood-boosting foods to your daily diet could score many smiles.
Best Mood-Boosting Foods
1. Fatty Fish
SMASH (salmon, mackerel, anchovy, sardines, herring) fish and albacore tuna have the highest sources of Omega 3 fatty acids linked to lowering depression levels. Experts suggest at least 250-500 mg of combined Omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) daily. Omega 3s are highly concentrated in neural cell membranes. Studies show Omega 3 modulate brain signaling, including the two happiness hormone pathways of dopamine and serotonin.4 5 6 7
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolateThis delightful delicacy is a yummy mood fixer. Its natural sugar provides a quick source of brain fuel.8 9 Rich in flavonoids that increase blood flow to your brain. This helps reduce inflammation, enhance brain health, and support mood regulation.
It also releases a cascade of feel-good compounds, such as caffeine, theobromine, and N-acylethanolamine. These substances are chemically similar to cannabinoids that have been linked to lifting moods.10 11 And yes, that means coffee helps boost moods too!
It’s not surprising that chocolate has a high hedonic rating of pleasing taste, texture, and scent that helps raise your spirits.12 13 It’s best to avoid milk chocolate that has added sugars and fat. The wiser choice is eating 1-2 squares of dark chocolate at 70% cocoa or higher and rich in flavonoids.
3. Fermented Foods
More health bonuses from probiotics in kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut include mood elevators. You see, about 90% of your feel-good hormone, serotonin, is produced by your gut flora or microbiome.14 15 Probiotics are the food source for your gut’s “good” bacteria. Feeding the “good” bacteria crowd out the “bad” ones.
There’s a 2-way communication pathway called the brain-gut axis. So, if your mood is wonky, your gut flora might need some help. Choosing the right fermented foods is key – meaning not beer, wine, or bread. Serotonin also plays a role in stress response, appetite, and sexual drive. Therefore, keeping up healthy hormone levels has multiple benefits.
Bananas get a bad rap. One medium banana has only 105 calories, 16 grams of natural sugar, and 3.5 grams of fiber.16 Fiber combined with natural sugars slows the release of sugar, stabilizing blood glucose levels and mood swings.
Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, which helps your body make dopamine and serotonin.17
Choosing bananas that still sport some green on the peel is an excellent source of prebiotics. Prebiotics are the food source for probiotics, helping probiotics survive longer. Probiotics fuel the “good” gut microbes. A hardy microbiome means better overall health and a rich source of happy hormones.
Oatmeal, muesli, and granola topped with yogurt and bananas are terrific for a mood upgrade. Studies show that 1.5-6 grams of fiber at breakfast reported better mood and energy levels. It helps stabilize blood sugar levels that control irritability and swinging moods.18 About 81 grams of oats boast 19% of your recommended daily iron needs.19
Studies demonstrate that eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to lower rates of depression.22 23 Berries are high in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which give some berries their blue-purple color. Antioxidants fight free radicals and protect your brain cells from oxidative damage.
One study showed a diet rich in anthocyanins lowers the risk of depression symptoms by 39%.25 When fresh is out of season, frozen berries also retain maximum antioxidant potency.26
7. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are delicious sources of plant-based protein, healthy fats, and fiber. They supply an amino acid called tryptophan that plays a role in serotonin production. Best sources include almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds.27
The healthiest diets for the brain, Mediterranean and MIND, promote whole foods, including nuts and seeds.28 29 30 31 Avoiding processed, fried, and fast foods prevent harmful compounds from triggering inflammation that can affect your mood. One 10-year study in 15,980 people with moderate nut intake lowered their risk of depression by 23%.32
Stock your pantry and fridge with these mood-enhancing food options, and you’ll always have a yummy, healthy snack to help lift your spirits. Adding these foods daily to your regular diet enriches a robust microbiome, improving immunity and overall health. And as you now know, a healthy gut pumps out your happy hormones, serotonin, and dopamine, to keep you smiling!