Let’s face it, healthy food seems boring. Sure, they’re filled with healthy nutrients that our bodies need and could probably even help us lose weight if we threw a little exercise in. But where’s the fun? I’m sure that many of us would feel happier biting into an ice cream or a burger than a bland garden salad. Or at least we think we would.
The strange truth is that some foods are designed to hack our bodies into feeling happy. Even stranger is that they’re not all vegetables. That’s right, you can eat your feelings of happiness and actually enjoy the taste at the same time. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 foods that will make you happy, whilst being both healthy and fun to eat too!
Salmon, and fish in general, are an amazing source of both nutrition and happiness. This is primarily due to its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve your mood and alleviate mild depression. Oily fish such as salmon also contain high levels of vitamin B12, which can help in the production of serotonin. This is one of the neurotransmitters that aids in feelings of well being.
Not a fan of fish? No problem, just get your hands on some fish oil capsules for your daily dose of omega-3.
Okay, I know I said I’d leave the vegetables alone, but there’s a reason that Popeye was all over this stuff. Spinach, along with other leafy greens, are high in folic acid, which is known to reduce fatigue and alleviate depression. They also contains high levels of magnesium, which is essential to maintaining adequate levels of serotonin. No wonder it made Popeye toot his horn!
Chicken and turkey contain several amino acids that help you to maintain a happy mood. The first is trytophan, which helps to make serotonin. Be careful though, over indulging can result in feelings of sluggishness. The second is tyrosine, which aids the body in coping with stress. It also works as a building block for norepinephrine and dopamine, two of the neurotransmitters that are responsible for controlling your mood.
In addition to having an abundance of nutrients, milk can also play an important role in our moods. The first is due to it containing iodine, which is important for proper thyroid function. The thyroid gland regulates almost the entirety of your body’s functions through the hormones it produces, including your mood. The second is due to the presence of whey protein in milk, which is said to alleviate anxiety. Got milk?
5. Brazil Nuts
Similar to milk, Brazil nuts can positively effect your thyroid function. This is because they are rich in selenium, a micronutrient that helps the body to function correctly and is usually only found in plants. The amazing thing about selenium is that it its believed to have an almost instantaneous effect. This makes the nuts perfect for a quick energy fix.
There’s a reason why you feel so happy and satisfied after indulging in this sweet treat, and that’s because of a group of chemicals found in chocolate called N-acyclethanoloamine. They stimulate channels in the brain to release endorphins – the body’s pain-relieving and pleasure feeling chemicals. So, if you have some chocolate you’ll subsequently feel happy. This is important, because feelings of well being are imperative to maintaining our cardiovascular systems.
Despite its proven health benefits, we’re not giving you permission to inhale as much chocolatey goodness as your heart desires. Moderation is the key. Studies have shown that we need less than 7g per day, which equates to only 2 or 3 small pieces a week. So by all means, get those endorphins flowing, just don’t go crazy.
This may sound preposterous, especially to those who aren’t fans of spicy food. But believe it or not, hot food can make you happy and provide you with a sense of well being. This is all thanks to a little chemical compound called capsaicin, which is what gives chili peppers their heat. When you eat something spicy the capasicin attaches itself to the pain receptors in the mucous membrane of your mouth and nose. Subsequently, the brain is told that it’s in pain, so it releases endorphins. Maybe that’s why some people like spicy food so much?
A sweet treat that is far healthier than sugar, honey can also have a positive impact on your mood. This is because it contains kaempferol and quercetin, chemicals which reduce inflammation in the brain and therefore helps to prevent depression. Honey also has has far less of an impact on your blood-sugar level, which means you won’t have a sudden
sugar crash that can leave you tired and depressed.
Coconut can be a fantastic way to keep yourself happy because of its high levels of triglycerides. These are fats that aid your mood and promote brain health. Be careful how you get your coconut dose though – coconut milk and coconut based desserts are quite unhealthy. Your best bet is unsweetened, natural pieces of coconut or coconut shavings.
That’s right folks, pasta and other forms of carbohydrate rich foods can actually be good for you. They do call it comfort food for a reason. The carbs are great because they release energy slowly whilst simultaneously helping us to feel full and satisfied. In addition, pasta is full of protein which contains two important amino acids – L-pheny-lalanine and trytophan. As we’ve previously learnt, these release endorphins which help to elevate our mood.
It’s important to note that whole grains are a far healthier option when it comes to carbohydrates, so stick to multigrain or wholemeal bread, brown or basmati rice and wholegrain pasta.
Great ways to feel happy: 101 Ways to Feel Happy on a Daily BasisFeatured photo credit: Closeup on woman taking out marshmallow from cup of hot chocolate via Shutterstock