There are plenty of foods with proven mood-boosting benefits that can help you get happier and healthier with every bite. Our brains and our bodies can often feel like they’re operating on two different wavelengths: sometimes, your body tells you to take a nap when your brain knows you’ve still got work to do, or your belly just screams for a candy bar when your brain definitely knows better. However, when it comes to our mood, our food choices and our feelings go hand-in-hand more often than you might think.
One of the best choices of foods that make you happy? Halibut. A steamed piece of halibut has an impressive amount of protein and influences your serotonin levels. It’s also ranked as one of the most filling foods, according to The Satiety Index of Common Foods, an Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The moral of the story? Bust out of a hangry mood with a little halibut.
Seaweed—yes, like in your sushi or on the side as a salad—is packed with depression-fighting iodine, which isn’t always so easy to find in food (and no, please don’t start downing spoonfuls of iodized salt to get enough). Iodine is critical for your thyroid to function properly, which influences your energy, weight, and even your brain functions, leaving you feeling blue when you have too little, and a whole lot happier when you’re meeting your goals.
3. Red Wine
A few cocktails may make you feel giddy for the moment, but red wine can help make you happier in the long-term. Red wine is not only good for your heart health, researchers in Spain have also linked drinking the occasional glass of red wine with reduced depression risk. Red wine also happens to be a good source of resveratrol, a pigment found in grapes that has been linked to reductions in belly fat and improved mood.
Coconut is chock-full of medium-chain triglycerides, fats that fuel better moods; a joint study from researchers at Yale and SUNY Albany even found this tasty treat has a neuroprotective effect. And although coconut is commonly found in high-calorie desserts, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) stuff your face with macaroons to get your fix. Try using some coconut cream in your coffee, adding some unsweetened flakes to your favorite baked good, or just crack a fresh one open and go to town.
5. Dark Chocolate
Turns out chocolate’s delicious taste isn’t the only reason it makes you feel so warm and fuzzy. The cocoa treat also gives you an instant boost in mood and concentration, and improves blood flow to your brain, helping you feel more vibrant and energized. Research conducted by the British Pharmacological Society even reveals that cocoa flavonols can boost your cognitive performance, making it easier to keep killing it at work. Sadly, Snickers bars don’t count. Cocoa is the chocolate ingredient that does your body good, so pure dark chocolate is your best bet if you want the mood-boosting benefits minus the extra belly flab.
Mussels are loaded with some of the highest naturally-occurring levels of vitamin B12, a vitamin countless adults are missing out on. So, what’s B12’s mood-saving trick? It helps insulate your brain cells, keeping your brain sharp as you age. Mussels also contain the trace nutrients zinc, iodine, and selenium, which keep your thyroid—a major mood regulator—on track.
7. Grass-Fed Beef
Animals raised on grass pastures boast much higher levels of healthy conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA), a “happy” fat that combats stress hormones and blasts belly fat. Grass-fed beef also has a lower overall fat count and contains higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids compared to grain-feed beef. Another great grass-fed option: lamb. It’s packed with iron, a nutrient vital for a stable mood — the areas of the brain related to mood and memory contain the highest iron concentrations and iron-deficiency anemia can be a major contributor to a poor mood.
A little crab on your menu can make you feel a whole lot less crabby in the long run. This seafood is a serious mood-booster, packing 351 milligrams of omega-3s per three-ounce portion, thus reducing painful inflammation that can sap anybody’s happiness. For those whose suffer from depression-promoting anemia, crab is a particularly good choice; it’s high in iron, helping you say so long to that low mood in seconds.