How many times have we said chocolate is the answer to all that ails us? Chocoholics are not the only ones who believe that food can lift our spirits when we feel depressed, blue and anxious. Nutritionists say delectables that will brighten your mood run the gamut from the exotic—saffron— to the everyday—dark, leafy, green vegetables. They list bananas, coconuts, lentils, eggs, kale, ginger tea, nuts, oranges, papaya, beans, spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts as foods that will make you happier.
Carbs are a favorite mood-booster. A sweet and starchy snack that’s easily digested will improve your mood within 20 minutes. Complex carbs that take longer to digest take longer to work, but the delay makes them an effective “time-release” solution to keep depression at bay. You take advantage of both types of carbs with these munchies: honey on whole-wheat crackers, oatmeal with raisins, or a whole-wheat English muffin with jam.
The magic ingredients in citrus fruits, beans and dark-green leafy vegetables are antioxidants and folate, a B vitamin that Harvard Medical School researchers found boosted the mood of depressed patients. The brain needs folate to synthesize mood chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These three mood chemicals are also altered by omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for energy production, brain activity and circulation.
Essential omega-3 fatty acids may be the super-daddy of all nutrition happy pills. Oily, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, rainbow trout and mussels are packed with the omega- fatty acids our bodies don’t produce. Depression, aggression and suicidal tendencies have been linked to low levels of serotonin.
Scientists recently halted their 9-month study of the effect of omega-3s on bipolar disorder after only four months when they found the fatty acids were so effective at leveling mood swings. Another study determined that eating fish twice a week was linked to lower risk of depression and suicide.
If you are worried about mercury in fatty fish, look for wild Pacific salmon, shrimp, summer flounder, farmed catfish, croaker, haddock, and mid-Atlantic blue crab. Physicians say children nd pregnant women can safely eat as much as 12 ounces of these.
Try this salmon dish, which will give you 6 grams of the monounsaturated fat, along with leafy greens and eggs, which is one of the few foods that contain mood-enhancing vitamin D. Other ingredients are green beans, minced shallots, Vidalia onion, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and extra virgin olive oil.
Salmon Salad with Vinaigrette
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 4 (3-ounce) salmon fillets
- 4 cups mixed salad greens
- 1/4 cup vertically sliced Vidalia or other sweet onion
- 2 hard-cooked large eggs, sliced
- Preheat grill to medium-high or pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place beans in large pan of boiling water; cook 2 minutes. Drain and plunge beans into ice water; drain.
- Combine vinegar, mustard, oil, shallots, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in small bowl, stirring well with whisk; set aside.
- Using a mister, spray both sides of each fillet with olive oil; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 tea-spoon pepper. Place fish, skin side up, on grill rack; cook 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork, turning after 4 minutes. Or bake in the 350-degree oven for 20 minutes.
- Arrange 1 cup greens in each of 4 bowls; top with onion, egg slices, and beans. Top with salmon; drizzle with dressing.
For nine more delicious and nutrition-rich recipes that will make you feel happier, go here.