1) Green Leafy Vegetables
When you think of “comfort food” you probably don’t think of a big green salad. However, this isn’t a joke. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, and romaine lettuce have actually been proven to help boost mood since they contain folate, a beneficial vitamin that produces the mood-regulating brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. In one 2012 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression when compared to those who ate the least amount.
Another green vegetable that’s rich in folate is asparagus. One single cup of asparagus provides two-thirds of your daily value, making it a great source of this mood-boosting nutrient.
While you can always take a folate supplement, researchers have found greater mood-boosting results when people actually eat folate-rich produce. In 2013, researchers at the University of Otago conducted a 21-day study where they had 281 young adults complete a daily online food diary (along with answering some other personal questions). At the end of the study, researchers found a strong day-to-day connection between positive mood and higher fruit and vegetable consumption. They said participants felt “calmer, happier, and more energetic” on days they ate more fruits and veggies. That mood also carried into the next day after consumption.
Avocados are a unique fruit. Unlike berries, bananas, or citrus fruits, avocados are rich in healthy fats and protein. While the brain needs these healthy fats to function properly, it’s actually avocado’s high folate content that lands the tasty green on this list. As I’ve mentioned with some of the other folate-rich foods on this list, it’s a vitamin that helps the body produce mood-regulating dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. Serotonin works by passing messages between nerve cells and helps the brain manage a variety of functions. By itself, researchers say folate can boost mood naturally and improve the efficiency of antidepressants. However, the power of folate strengthens when it’s combined with vitamin B12. Fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and trout) are good sources of vitamin B12.
They’re not just for monkeys! Bananas offer many benefits for health, including putting you in a better mood. Researchers say bananas are effective at fighting stress because they contain high levels of tryptophan. In the body tryptophan is converted to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter. Additionally, studies show that bananas contain beneficial antioxidants that help with the release of dopamine within the brain.
5) Organic Turkey
If you’re someone who follows a diet that allows for meat then definitely load up on organic turkey breast (and not just during Thanksgiving). Like bananas, turkey is another food that’s rich in the amino acid tryptophan. Additionally, turkey is lean and loaded with filling protein.
Blueberries are often referred to as a powerful “brain food” because they can help improve memory and cognitive function. They’re also a great mood-boosting food. That’s because the sweet blue fruit is rich in beneficial antioxidants that aid the brain in producing dopamine. Like I said just a few minutes ago, dopamine is a mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Research also shows that people who munch on blueberries experience a boost in natural killer cells. They’re a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in boosting immunity and is also critical for countering stress.