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Is your diet making you depressed? Read on for 5 of the most powerful happiness-promoting foods on the planet, and start feeling happier now!

Everything we eat alters our mood, metabolism, and mental focus. The Modern American Diet (MAD) of refined carbs, added sugars and oils, and factory meats can make us fat, brain-foggy, and depressed.

Thankfully, unprocessed whole foods offer an easy solution to feeling better now. Lift your mood today with these top foods for happiness!

5 Happiness SuperFoods


1.Raw Cocoa – Food of the Gods

Divine Qualities 

  • Raw cocoa (cacao)’s botanical name, theobroma, means “food of the gods”. Aptly named, this divine food is an instant mood lifter.
  • Chemicals in cocoa trigger the release of dopamine and glutamate that boost mental activity, focus, and mood. These chemicals also stimulate pleasure centers of the brain for a happier day.
  • Cocoa reduces inflammation and prevents seasonal depression. Try a cup of hot cocoa on dark winter mornings for a quick mood boost.

•Dark and Raw 

  • A few ounces of dark chocolate daily improves mood, speeds information processing, and reduces mental fatigue. That’s because raw cocoa and the dark chocolate made from it are packed with flavonols that improve blood flow to the brain.
  • Be sure what you’re getting is unprocessed or raw (rather than dutch processed with alkalai) to get the full antioxidant benefit.
  • Look for chocolate that has more fiber than sugar (over 85% cocoa content) for the greatest mood-boosting, health-protecting power.

•Health Bonus – Cocoa contains:

  • Resveratrol, an antioxidant that extends healthy lifespan.
  • Specific flavonols that lower blood pressure and blood sugar and protect against dementia.
  • Other phytonutrients that raise metabolism and prevent weight gain.
  • Cocoa is a great source of several vital nutrients for happiness: iron, magnesium, and fiber.

•To Get More Cocoa In:

  • Add raw baking cocoa or dark chocolate to smoothies, pancakes or scrambled eggs, black beans or lentils, nut butter, sweet or savory sauces, oatmeal, or coffee.
  • Dust over yogurt or fruit, or drink it in water sweetened with honey or your favorite milk or juice.
  • Cocoa pairs well with black or cayenne pepper, sea salt, cinnamon, cumin, citrus, mint, berries, nuts, coffee, and vanilla.
  • Get creative, and get your cocoa buzz on!


2.Wild Salmon – Omega-3 Bliss

Also in this category: tuna, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and shrimp.

  • Eating wild-caught fish a few times a week is a tasty step toward greater health and happiness. Here’s why:
Omega-3s
  • Fish are a rich source of omega-3 fats, which play a key role in protecting the brain and controlling inflammation in the body.
  • The DHA form of this fatty acid is the #1 fat found in the synapses that connect our brain cells.
  • People who eat the most fish have the least mood disorders.
  • Omega-3 alleviates depression in pregnant women.
  • Fish oil is as effective as Prozac in treating depression.
Why wild?

Farmed fish are fed an unnatural grain-based diet (like other factory-produced meats), greatly reducing their omega-3 content.

Is fish better than fish oil?

Yes! Eating wild-caught fish offers bonus happiness elements not found in fish oil supplements (B12, magnesium, iodine, cholesterol, vitamin D, calcium), which work together in a happiness synergy.


3.Tomatoes and Watermelon – Lycopene Love

  • The cancer-fighting chemical lycopene that makes tomatoes red also prevents inflammatory compounds that cause depression.
  • Health Bonus - People with more lycopene in their blood could live a decade longer!
  • Tomatoes are high in the mood-boosting compounds folate and magnesium, used to treat depression. They also provide the iron, vitamin B6, and tryptophan needed to produce mood-balancing neurotransmitters.
  • Watermelon has about 40% more lycopene than raw tomatoes. Eat watermelon alone or as a side to any meal, add it to salsas, salads, cold summer soups, pickle the rind for a winter treat, or blend into smoothies for a mood-boosting snack.
  • For the greatest mood lift:
    • Opt for organic – organic tomatoes have 3 times the lycopene as thier conventionally grown counterparts.
    • Boost lycopene content by letting fruits sit at room temperature for a few days or by cooking them (as in stewed tomatoes, pasta sauce, roasted tomatoes).


4.Leafy Greens – Nature’s Anti-depressants

Includes: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, collards, kale, mixed greens, swiss chard, romaine and dark lettuces

  • Leafy greens are full of vital nutrients for happiness: calcium, fiber, folate, and iron. They also provide vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, and a wealth of health-protecting phytonutrients that science is still discovering.
  • Top Source of Folate
    • Ensures proper gene expression to protect us from depression, cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases.
    • Boosts mood by increasing formation of omega-3s and other compounds that reduce brain inflammation.
    • Folic acid (synthetic folate) effectively treats depression.
    • Health Bonus – Bitter compounds like sulforaphane work to detox the liver and kill cancer cells. Cooking bitter greens improves flavor, softens texture, and supercharges sulforaphane content for best health protection.
    • Dark and Colorful - Darker greens have more magnesium, which improves memory and learning, relaxes blood vessels, and reduces fatigue and anxiety. Go for mixed greens like in a mesclun salad blend. The rainbow of phytonutrients work together in a happiness synergy!


5.Chile Peppers – Runner’s High of Foods

  • Much like exercise generates a post-workout high, eating spicy foods releases a rush of endorphins for that same cool, calm euphoria. For those of us seeking an endorphin “high” through over-exercising or risk-taking, eating chile peppers is a safer (and tastier) way to get that intense rush of happiness and wellbeing.
  • For the Greatest High:
    • Go for Hot – The spicier the chile, the greater the antioxidant punch and mood lift.
    • Pair with Fat – You’ll absorb more fat-soluble capsaicin by eating it with fat. Think guacamole with spicy salsa, peppercorn vinaigrette, coconut curry, black pepper on eggs, or a dash of cayenne with sunflower seeds in your smoothie for a tasty, happy kick.
  • Health Bonus 
    • Chiles are great sources of Vitamin B1 (fights heart disease), vitamin B2 (supports body’s natural antioxidants), vitamin C (helps absorb iron), and vitamin E (protects brain fats).
    • Capsaicin has a fiery taste but cools off the body and reduces inflammation in the same way as asprin and ibuprofen.
    • Capsaicin is a powerful cancer-fighting compound. Remember, the spicier the better!

Challenge

Are you ready for more happiness? Take your mood up a notch by adding these 5 Happiness Superfoods to your diet today.

Which items could you pick up at the market this week?

Which mood-lifting meals could you experiment with?

Questions? Comments? Happy recipes to share?

I’d love to hear from you!

To your health!

Summer Flowers Ricketts
Healthy Lifestyle Coach, Sports Center of Morehead
Certified DreamBuilder Coach, Fitness Educator, Weight Management Trainer
Summer@sportscentermorehead.com


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