The world famous gastronome, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, was not kidding when he wrote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” (We translated the French for easy reading.) After all, food and health have long shared an intimate relationship: It not only fuels us to perform tasks efficiently but impacts the way we think and feel as well.
So, it should come as little to no surprise that the foods we do (or don’t) choose to indulge in can have an impact on our mental health and play a role in issues such as depression, anxiety and moodiness. To help keep your brain smiling, we’ve rounded up those ingredients that have been shown to bring on the happy. Bon appétit!
20 foods that will boost your mood right now
AvocadoOur brain loves omega-3 fats, which avocado has plenty of. Folate, vitamin B6 and tryptophan deficiencies have been linked to depression, so eating avocado is a good idea because it contains plenty of all three. It also contains dopamine-producing protein.
TRY THIS: shrimp with grapefruit & avocadoThinkstock
BerriesBlueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries—they all bring on the happy, thanks to high levels of antioxidants, which battle against oxidative stress. Folate is also widely present, the deficiency of which, is believed to bring on the blues. So berry up today!
TRY THIS: berry delicious potato saladThinkstock
Green teaStress got you down? The calming amino acid theanine in green tea can fix that. During your next 3 p.m. slump, brew yourself a cup, as it helps improve concentration and anxiousness as well. Bonus: Green tea also contains more antioxidants than black tea.
TRY THIS: beginner green tea smoothieThinkstock
KimchiFermented foods like kimchi are brimming with probiotics that are known to have a positive effect on our mood and help us maintain a healthy gut. Why is this important? Because the brain and gut share a close relationship that effects our overall well-being.
TRY THIS: probiotic-rich radish kimchiThinkstock
CoconutEveryone is nuts for coconut right now, and rightly so. The tropical fave contains lauric acid and medium-chain triglycerides that have been shown to lower anxiety and enhance happiness. In essence, it contains the kind of fats your brain will love.
TRY THIS: homemade granolaThinkstock
Greek yogurtFeel-good serotonin is actually concentrated in the gut, so having healthy intestines is important. That's where the probiotics found in yogurt come in. It's also a good source of calcium, which encourages the brain to release those "happy feeling" neurotransmitters.
TRY THIS: chocolate raspberry shakeThinkstock
Dark chocolateThis magical treat comes packed with iron and magnesium, and the power to stimulate the production of feel-good endorphins and reduce stress as well. The key is choosing chocolate with at least 70 per cent cacao to help release that mood-boosting serotonin.
TRY THIS: chocolate bourbon cakeThinkstock
EggsMood lifter: check. Fights depression: check. Balances blood sugar: check. Protein-rich eggs are more than just a breakfast staple; they're a feel-good food. They also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which stimulates serotonin and promotes sleep—just like turkey.
TRY THIS: pickled vegetable fritatta sandwichThinkstock
ApplesIt's all about the antioxidant quercetin in apples, which powers up the brain's neurotransmitters and prevents nerve cells from burning out. The fruit's pectin helps you feel sated and promotes balance of blood-sugar levels, thereby preventing mood swings.
TRY THIS: Waldorf berry saladThinkstock
QuinoaCarbs are great for making you feel better by upping serotonin levels in the brain, and this ancient seed has plenty of it. Also a complete protein, it's known to help balance blood-sugar levels, which in turn keeps irritability and anxiety at bay.
TRY THIS: fresh apricot jalapeno mint quinoa saladThinkstock
SalmonOmega-3s make up a healthy chunk of our brains, and a lack thereof has been directly linked to depression. Salmon is rich in this mood-boosting fat, which helps your brain's neurotransmitters work properly and also protects against heart disease.
TRY THIS: cedar-planked salmon with brown riceThinkstock
SpinachNot enough B vitamins means low serotonin levels, which have been directly linked to depression. Luckily, spinach comes packed with folate (B9) and vitamins B3, B6 and B12, which step in to regulate serotonin production and repair tired muscles.
TRY THIS: spinach-artichoke stuffed garlic breadThinkstock
MushroomsDepression has been directly linked to a lack of vitamin D—a nutrient that abounds in mushrooms. Even better, researchers at the Boston School of Medicine found that indulging in a single serving of the fungi is as good as taking a vitamin D supplement.
TRY THIS: egg noodles with rotisserie chicken, peas & mushroomsThinkstock
BananasWhat a multi-tasker! Known for their potassium content (improves brain power), bananas also contain tryptophan, which converts into mood-lifting serotonin and B vitamins. High iron content fights fatigue as well.
TRY THIS: gluten-free apple muffinsThinkstock
LegumesChickpeas, beans (think pinto, black, navy, kidney) and lentils all fall under the legume family. They also share a wide range of mood-boosting nutrients like magnesium, iron, zinc and folate that all contribute to maintaining memory and balancing energy levels.
TRY THIS: almond, farro & black bean saladThinkstock
OrangesAppropriate levels of vitamin C equal a sunny demeanor, and oranges pack in a whole load of this antioxidant. And it's not just the juice or fruit segments that can perk you up. The aroma of an orange has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Aaaaaaaah!
TRY THIS: spiced orange cake with glazed orangesThinkstock
OystersThese molluscs are a double-whammy: an aphrodisiac and good brain food. High in zinc—a powerful antidote to stress—and the mood-elevating amino acid tyrosine, oysters tick all the good-for-you boxes. They also contain brain-friendly omega-3 fats.
TRY THIS: oyster stewThinkstock
SaffronYou know it's used in paella, and now, research in Iran has shown that saffron can help treat mild to moderate depression by increasing serotonin in the brain. And ladies, listen up: Another study showed that saffron pills also helped reduce the symptoms of PMS.
TRY THIS: Indian saffron riceThinkstock
TurmericIf you're a fan of Indian food, you've already tried turmeric. It's the curcumin in the vibrant yellow spice that has been proven to aid in the treatment of depression symptoms. Popular for its positive effect on Alzheimer's patients, it helps improve memory, mood and cognition in seniors.
TRY THIS: chana masalaThinkstock
WalnutsEver notice how a walnut looks like a brain? No surprise then that this omega-3-packed nut helps boost serotonin production. In addition, the magnesium content regulates blood-sugar levels, warding off depression-related symptoms like irritability and insomnia.
TRY THIS: rotisserie chicken salad with warm bacon vinaigretteThinkstock
It’s time we started talking openly about our mental health. Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 27, and help end the stigma around mental illness. For every text message sent and mobile or long-distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs. The same goes for anyone sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk or sharing the Bell Let’s Talk image on Facebook. But talking about it is just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.