7 Foods That Are Scientifically Proven to Increase Happiness

By Laurel Randolph on 15 December 2014 0 comments

Feeling down? Many people self-medicate with food when they get down in the dumps, but that pint of double fudge ice cream isn't doing you any favors (granted, it's not hurting your tastebuds). (See also: 11 Things Scientists Will Boost Your Happiness Today)

The next time you're feeling low, try eating one of the following foods, which are scientifically proven to help turn that frown upside down.

1. Chili Peppers

Are you into spicy foods? That's good news for your mental wellbeing. Chili peppers contain two hard-hitting compounds: capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin. These chemicals trick your brain into thinking that something is burning your mouth, which is where that "ouch get it out!" reaction comes from. But soon after, your body reacts by releasing endorphins and gives you a natural high. So go ahead and add some hot sauce to your meal when you need a little pick-me-up.

2. Spinach

There may be good reason why Popeye was always so chipper. Not only is spinach high in calcium and iron, it's packed with antioxidants and folic acid (B vitamins), both of which are associated with good mood. One study found that low levels of folic acid increased risk for depression, and more studies are being conducted about the effect of folate on mental health. Folate is water-soluble, so your body does not store it and therefore needs a continuous supply. Other foods rich in B vitamins include legumes, avocado, and broccoli.

3. Poultry

Poultry like chicken and turkey contain an amino acid called tyrosine, which is involved in the production of stress hormones. Some scientists believe that when your body is under stress, it can't make enough tyrosine. Eating poultry could help replenish your supply and help reduce psychological stress. Lean poultry contains a variety of nutrients and is a high quality source of protein, so there's more than one reason to have chicken tonight!

4. Wild Salmon

Most fish is really good for you, and salmon is at the top of the list. That's because it's full of omega-3 fatty acids. The coveted omega-3's are good for many things, including fighting inflammation and promoting a healthy nervous system. Both help regulate brain chemistry and bolster better thinking and a happier mind. According to a recent study, taking omega-3 fatty acids reduced stress for medical students while they studied for exams.

Salmon and other omega-3 rich foods are also thought to lower risk for heart disease, ease arthritis pain and improve asthma symptoms, among other benefits. So what are you waiting for? Get to the fish market!

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are high in lycopene, a phytochemical that gives red fruits and vegetables their color. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that can have a surprisingly strong effect on the body, and has been shown to help prevent heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Researchers are investigating the potential for phytochemicals like lycopene to fight inflammatory diseases and help negate their negative effects on the brain. Tomatoes are also rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium, and are just plain good for you and your mental health.

6. Garlic

Garlic is often championed as one of the healthiest foods in world. Garlic is being studied for cancer and heart disease prevention, and promoting good cholesterol and a healthy immune system. Garlic contains chromium and other compounds, which some believe to function as a natural antidepressant. Dr. Henry Emmons claims that raw garlic can encourage serotonin production; depression is thought to be due to a serotonin imbalance. Studies are still being conducted on garlic's effect on mood and depression, but with it's anti-inflammatory and other beneficial properties, why not eat more garlic? (Just carry some mints.)

7. Chocolate

I know, I don't need to tell you to eat chocolate when you're sad. Luckily, dark chocolate contains an antioxidant called resveratrol, which can also be found in red wine. Resveratrol is thought to boost levels of endorphins in your brain as well as serotonin. Studies have shown that chocolate can improve mood states or lessen negative moods, and more studies are being conducted. Now, if only I could get the doctor to write me a chocolate prescription!

What foods are your go-to antidepressants? Please share in comments!

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