Did you ever think eating a big green salad will actually make you happier? Well, we have good news for you! Those leafy greens not only make your skin glow and help you fight off disease, they actually help your body produce the chemicals that boost your mood and make ya feel good too. Pretty neat stuff!
We know food plays a huge role in our health and weight management, but we can also eat foods to make us feel a certain way. What we put in our bodies has a direct effect on our mind and emotional well-being.
We now know that there is a gut-brain axis and our gut is in constant communication with our brain, which means if our gut is happy, we’re happy!
Good-mood-foods contain the nutrients our body and mind need to fight off inflammation (which only leads to more stress and consequently disease) and produce chemicals in the brain and gut that make us feel happy.
Who needs a glass of vino when you can have a green salad? Alright, alright…. we won’t get ahead of ourselves here…
In today’s world where we are constantly on the go, stress has become the norm. Because of this, we want to do everything we can to combat internal and external stress so that our minds and bodies can handle any situation - i.e. when shit hits the fan, we don’t blow our lids.
By creating small new habits to manage our stress levels, we lay the foundation for a more chilled out life. One of these habits can be to add in stress-busting foods into our daily routine.
You want to think of your body and particularly brain, in this case, as an expensive car. Your brain works 24/7 and requires fuel to function properly. What is in that fuel makes all the difference. Are you driving a luxe new whip or a beat up Pontiac that is well past its prime?
Like an expensive car, your brain needs premium fuel, baby! It needs high quality foods that contain loads of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress.
On the flip side, just like a luxe whip, your brain can be damaged if you eat anything other than that premium fuel. That whip is not going to ride like it should if it’s loading up on fuel it’s not meant to use.
Diets high in refined sugars and processed foods (those fake ass food products) are killin’ your brain and this directly affects your mood, anxiety levels and emotional well-being.
Refined sugars are among the worst on the brain. Not only have studies shown that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, but it can be just as damaging. Say whaaaaat?
Studies have shown that in diets high in refined sugar (we’re talking to all the soda drinking and candy crushin’ *not the game* people out there), there’s a correlation between this way of eating and impaired brain function including mood disorders such as depression.
It only makes sense that if you are eating foods that are causing inflammation in the brain, that you’re going to be feelin’ like turd whether you directly realize it or not.
So how does this make sense? How do foods affect the way that you feel?
Serotonin a neurotransmitter that helps you sleep, eat, and digest and is primarily found in the digestive system. This chemical helps to reduce depression and regulates anxiety, happiness and your mood. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are associated with depression and anxiety. Serotonin is like your naturally occuring happy pill. When you’re eating foods that are depleting serotonin production, it’s as if you’ve forgotten to take your happy pills that day.
When these levels are normal you feel happier, calmer, more focused, less anxious and more emotionally stable.
Since 95% of this chemical is produced in your gastrointestinal tract or ya gut, and this tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that your digestive system not only helps you digest your food but guides your emotions as well! Hence why your gut is called “the second brain” of the body. (Check out our blog post "How to Take Care of Your Second Brain").
Soooo a gut feeling? Ever had one of those? There’s a physical reason for it!
The function of your gut and the production of serotonin is influenced by that party going on down there. There’s billions of “good” bacteria that your gut hosts and they are hootin’ and hollerin’ whenever you feed them the right kinds of foods.
So what types of foods help us fight stress and feel happy? Let’s dive in:
1. Green leafy vegetables
Leafy greens are the queen of the vegetable kingdom. They should be consumed daily because they feed our gut bacteria the right kinda food that it needs to thrive. They also alkalize our bodies (making them less acidic and inflamed) and help us to produce chemicals that make us feel happier, such as dopamine and serotonin. If you’re not a huge fan of eating your greens, treat yourself like a kid and sneak these queens in at any opportunity you have (smoothies, sandwiches, pasta sauce, soups, dips, the possibilities are endless!).
2. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods get a double gold star as a good mood food. They not only are filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, but probiotics as well! These foods contain the bacteria that help you produce the chemicals in your brain that make you feel your best.
Eating fermented foods replenishes your gut bacteria that will regulate your mood and make you have a more positive outlook. Time to get on the pickle train...
Think of magnesium as your body’s natural muscle relaxer. That is literally its job and most of us are incredibly deficient in it. Magnesium is an antidote to stress and one of the most powerful relaxation agents.
“Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or an even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency.” - Dr. Mark Hyman
Seaweed, green leafy vegetables, beans, avocados, nuts, and seeds - pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds- are all great sources of magnesium.
Getting your magnesium from your diet is ideal, but supplementing can be beneficial as well. We recommend this magnesium supplement.
4. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats and particularly DHA (omega 3-fatty acid) is a powerful antidote to depression and mood disorders. It is essential for our body and particularly brain to thrive and feel good. A healthy dose of daily fats help our bodies absorb nutrients and feel fuller longer too. Healthy fats can be found in high quality oil such as olive, avocado, and coconut oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, salmon, and dark chocolate.
5. Fiber rich foods
Fiber rich foods (particularly prebiotics) are the food for your healthy gut bacteria that help them thrive. Our gut bacteria are in charge of mood regulation and by feeding these bacteria the right foods, we give them the best chance at producing the chemicals that make us feel good.
Fiber also helps us to eliminate. When we are not eliminating properly, we become full of toxins which causes us more stress. Most people in the U.S. are severely deficient in fiber with the addition of so much processed foods (these foods usually contain very little fiber).
Look to get your fiber from whole plant foods such as: legumes, onions, artichokes, garlic, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dandelion greens, arugula, avocados, and bananas.
6. Dark chocolate
“Chocolate is the new anti-anxiety drug” - Journal of Psychopharmacology ...say no more. We know we don’t have to convince you on this one, but believe it or not there is a chemical reason why you feel so damn good after eating chocolate.
Anandamide aka “bliss” in Sanskrit is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. Guess what produces this compound AND additional chemicals that actually prolong the “feel-good” effects of it? You guessed it! Dark friggin chocolate.
Before you go out and buy loads of sugary chocolate candy, it’s the DARK cacao we’re talking about it. Aka REAL chocolate, not that processed junk. So when looking for that hit of good feels, be sure to find dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao.
Okay, so it's not technically a food, but a daily dose of some golden sunshine is hugely necessary to stabilize your mood. Don’t fear the sun! We are meant to absorb reasonable doses of those beautiful rays and it provides our bodies with the nutrients that help us fight off disease and make us feel happy. Just be smart about it and don’t lay out for hours crisping in the sun like a fried egg. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with depression and sensible sun exposure increases this vitamin and boosts serotonin as well.