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25 Meals to Boost Your Mood

Stressed? Buck up with some buckwheat-and-banana pancakes. Depressed? Whip up a bowl of walnut-miso noodles. These 25 recipes for happiness are sure to satisfy the stomach and turn frowns into smiles.
25 Meals to Boost Your Mood
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The milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard, but it won’t do much for our happiness levels. While a sweet treat may seem the obvious way to perk up, a nutritious diet’s a better bet for a good mood that lasts way after that sugar high wears off. From breakfast smoothies to salmon salad, the 25 meals below are tasty ways to feel mmm-mmm good.

Breakfasts

1. Fortified whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and blueberries. Fights depression. The cereal’s fortified with vitamin B, which studies have linked to good mental health [1]. Plus recent research suggests people who slurp down vitamin D in a serving of milk don’t just build strong bones — they’re also less likely to get depressed. And those berries may be blue, but they keep us from feeling that way [2]. So get crunching tomorrow morning. Even a soggy bowl says smile!

2. Banana-almond-flax smoothie. Fights depression and stress. Slurp some happiness on the go with a smoothie that does wonders for the mood and the taste buds. The potassium in bananas is a super stress-buster; plus nuts and flaxseed are great sources of omega-3s, which may help fight depression [3].

3. Buckwheat pancakes with sliced banana. Beats stress. Whether they’re for breakfast or dinner, pancakes can almost always brighten up a bad day. And there’s science behind it, too: Buckwheat pancakes pack flavonoids that may help reduce stress (at least in mice). Top the stack with some sliced banana, filled with potassium, another stress-buster!

Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

4. Full-fat Greek yogurt with honey and granola. Fights depression, boosts pleasure. This positivity parfait packs a bunch of happy ingredients: protein from a creamy cupful of Greek yogurt increases levels of pleasure-boosting neurotransmitters, and the yogurt's probiotics may be a tasty way to fight depression [4]. Honey really is a spoonful of sweetness, with compounds that may fight depression by reducing inflammation in the brain. (Throw on some berries for extra healthy points!)

Salads

5. Salmon salad with vinaigrette. Fights depression. When a bad mood hits, try a forkful of fish to feel better. Keep things cheery and green with this salmon salad, chock-full of omega-3-filled ingredients (like salmon and olive oil) that can help prevent symptoms of depression [5] [3]. Swap plain ol’ lettuce for spinach leaves for a bunch of mood-boosting B vitamins.

6. Warm quinoa, spinach, and shitake salad. Fights depression and anxiety. Quinoa’s not only an awesome vegan protein source — it’s also a complex carbohydrate that can help prevent depression and anxiety by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. And beyond the B vitamins in spinach, mushrooms are a source of selenium, a compound that may help fight depression [6]. This superfood-packed salad's got all the goods!

7. Beet, citrus, and avocado salad. Boosts energy. This colorful concoction brightens up the mood and the dining table. A bowlful of beets helps increase happiness with tons of folate; the vitamin C in citrus fruit recharges the body; and the flavonoids in a squirt of lemon juice benefit the brain. Tell a bad day to beet it!

8. Wild seaweed salad. Fights depression and anxiety. Vegetarians and carnivores alike can enjoy the positive feelings that come from a bowl of this snazzy salad. Seaweed’s a source of iodine, which can help fight depression; brown rice is a complex carb that helps stabilize mood with serotonin; and the omega-3s in EVOO, flavonoids in lemon, and anthocyanins in honey may all boost mood [7].

Main Dishes

9. Poached eggs and asparagus. Fights depression and anxiety. Eggs are a (perhaps surprisingly) good source of vitamin D, which may be important for fighting depression; they also provide mood-boosting vitamin B. And asparagus is filled with tryptophan, which increases levels of serotonin in the brain and helps prevent depression and anxiety [8].

10. Brown rice and black beans. Fights depression and anxiety. Beans aren’t just good for the heart — they’re good for the mind, too, since the selenium in them can help reduce inflammation in the brain [9]. Plus brown rice can boost mood by regulating serotonin levels. Try this great recipe for happiness.

11. Almond-crusted barramundi fish. Fights depressionThe name of this meal is fun to say, but that’s not all that’s great about it. Barramundi fish and almonds are excellent sources of omega-3s, which can help reduce depression and anxiety. Serve it with a side of spinach for a dose of B vitamins that also help create a positive mood. (Can’t find barramundi fish in the local grocery store? Try sea bass instead, although it doesn’t have quite as many omega-3s.)

12. Seared lamb chops with anchovies. Fights depression and beats stress. Go classier — and happier — than chicken wings and use grass-fed meat in this dinner recipe. Lamb is packed with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound that reduces stress hormones, and anchovies provide depression-fighting omega-3s.

13. Turkey burger with sweet potato fries Fights depression and anxiety Step up the traditional burger ’n fries with a meal that’s easier on the belly and the brain. The tryptophan in turkey increases levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Plus sweet potatoes are filled with mood-boosting B vitamins. Fry them in olive oil for some extra omega-3 happiness power!

Pasta

14. Spaghetti with steamed mussels. Fights depression and anxiety. Mussels — and most types of shellfish — are loaded with B vitamins, important for a good mood [10] Try this recipe, which features whole-wheat pasta and EVOO. Certain food combinations have a lot to do with mood: A meal that includes carbs, protein, and fat (like this one) can stop a case of the Debby Downers in its tracks. 

15. Whole-wheat pasta with cauliflower and collards. Fights depression. This vegetarian pasta dish has complex carbs, which help regulate mood, plus a serving of healthy veggies. Pack an extra punch with purple cauliflower — it not only looks cool, it also prevents depression with a hefty dose of B vitamins.

16. Walnut-miso noodles. Fights depression, anxiety, and stress. Everything about this dish screams healthy, happy, and delicious. Whole-wheat pasta is a complex carb that increases serotonin levels, and walnuts pack omega-3s that fight depression and anxiety. And chop up some chard for a tasty topping that’s a great source of magnesium, which can improve snooze time and reduce stress levels, especially for ladies [11] [12].

Soups and Stews

17. Chicken soup with vegetables. Boosts alertness. Try a bowlful of the good stuff for the soul and for a smile. Chicken packs the protein that helps us stay alert and ready to tackle the day. And orange you glad vegetables like carrots and squash also improve mood. Loud slurping required.

18. Lentil and vegetable stew with kale. Fights depression. Curl up with a cup of lentil stew on a rainy day to keep things sunny inside. Kale and the little legumes are great sources of folate, important for a good mood [13].

Side Dishes

19. Braised collards with tomatoes. Fights depression. This picture-perfect side dish features B vitamins and lycopene, which may fight depression by reducing inflammation in the brain [14]. Substitute cherry tomatoes for the whole tomatoes in this recipe, since it’s easier to eat more of the lycopene-packed skin that way.

20. Fresh corn and blue potato hash. Fights depression. Don’t worry, these potatoes aren’t moldy, but they are delicious ways to get happy. Blue potatoes (and their skins) are loaded with anthocyanins and iodine, nutrients that reduce inflammation in the brain and help regulate mood. This creative recipe adds an extra bonus with the mood-boosting B vitamins in spinach.

Snacks and Desserts

21. Trail mix with nuts and dark chocolate. Boosts alertness and beats stress. This crunchy combo is filled with monounsaturated fats that help prevent blood sugar crashes, a major cause of grouchiness. Plus they can increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood (and digestion) [15]. And a smidge of dark chocolate can prevent sluggishness with high levels of theobromine, a stimulant similar to caffeine. Plus even a few bites of the sweet stuff can reduce levels of sneaky stress hormones.

22. Granola bars with chocolate. Fights depression and anxietyThese homemade treats may look like cookies, but they’re actually nutritious ways to perk up. They’re filled with ingredients that fight depression and anxiety, like the omega-3s in flaxseed and anthocyanins in honey [16]. Even better, dark chocolate’s a stress-buster and oats are a source of soluble fiber that helps prevent mood swings.

23. Chocolate chia seed pudding. Fights depression and anxiety. Ch-ch-ch-chia! And chocolate! A more nutritious alternative to the standard pudding cup, this recipe’s a double whammy for a good mood. Chia seeds are a source of those depression-and-anxiety-reducing Omega-3s, and dark cocoa powder helps keep bad moods in check.

Beverages

24. Coffee with cinnamon. Boosts energy. There’s no Red Bull required to make it through a long afternoon. Coffee’s a natural stimulant, brightening a dismal day by boosting energy and metabolism.. A cup o’ Joe may also create feel-good feelings (in humans and in rats) by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin [17]. And a sprinkle of cinnamon’s all it takes to put some more pep in that step. 

25. Green tea and honey. Relieves anger and anxiety. Sip a cup of the green stuff at breakfast, before bedtime, or during a relaxing afternoon break. Green tea’s a great source of theanine, which helps reduce anger and improve concentration. Add a spoonful of honey to reap the benefits of anxiety-reducing anthocyanins [18].

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Works Cited +

  1. Association between folate, vitamin B(6) and vitamin B(12) intake and depression in the SUN cohort study. Sanchez-Villegas, A., Doreste, J., Schlatter, J., et al. School of Health Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas, Spain. Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet 2009;22(2):122-33.
  2. Berry anthocyanins and their aglycons inhibit monoamine oxidases A and B. Dreiseitel, A., Korte, G., Schreier, P., et al. Department of Psyhciatry, Univeristy of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany. Pharmacology Research 2009;59(5):6-11.
  3. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a controlled randomized trial. Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., Belury, M.A., Andridge, R., et al. Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, Ohio State University College of Medicine, OH. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2011;25(8):1725-34.
  4. Major depressive disorder: probiotics may be an adjuvant therapy. Logan, A.C., Katzman, M. Nutrition Research Consulting, Yonkers, NY. Medical hypotheses 2005;64(3):533-8.
  5. Fish-consumption and self-reported physical and mental health status. Silvers, K.M, Scott, K.M. New Zealand Institute for Crop & Food Research, New Zealand. Public Health Nutrition, 2002;5(3):427-31.
  6. Selenium and clinical trials: new therapeutic evidence for multiple diseases. Sanmartin, C., Piano, D., Font, M., et al. Department of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Navarra, Irunlarrea, Pamplona, Spain. Current Medicinal Chemistry 2011;18(30):4635-50.
  7. Bioactive compounds with effects on inflammation markers in humans. Rosa, F.T., Zulet, M.A., Marchini, J.S., et al. Division of Clinical Nutrition, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paolo, Sao Paolo, Brazil. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition 2012. Epub ahead of print.
  8. Tryptophan as an evolutionarily conserved signal to brain serotonin: molecular evidence and psychiatric implications. Russo, S., Kema, I.P., Bosker, F., et al. Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands, World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 2009;10(4):258-68.
  9. The impact of selenium supplementation on mood. Benton, D., Cook, R. Department of Psychology. University College, Swansea, Wales, UK. Biological Psychiatry, 1991;29(11):1092-8.
  10. Characterization of vitamin B12 compounds from edible shellfish, clam, oyster, and mussel. Watanabe, F., Katsura, H., Takenaka, S., et al. Departmnet of Health Science, Kochi Women’s University, Kochi. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2001;52(3):263-8.
  11. Magnesium, stress, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Galland, L. Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, Asheville, N.C. Magnesium and Trace Elements, 1991-1992;10(2-4):287-301.
  12. Magnesium involvement in sleep: genetic and nutritional models. Chollet, D., Franken, P. Raffin, Y. Department of Psychiatry, University of Geneva, Switzerland. Behavioral Genetics, 2001;31(5):413-25.
  13. Folate status and mood: is there a relationship? Williams, E., Stewart-Knox, B., McConville, C., et al. Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. Public Health Nutrition, 2008;11(2):118-23.
  14. Influence of lycopene and vitamin C from tomato juice on biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation. Jacob, K, Periago, M.J., Bohm, V., et al. Department of Food Technology, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Faculty of veterinary Sciences, University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain. British Journal of Nutrition, 2008;99(1);137-46.
  15. Metablomics unveils urinary changes in subjects with metabolic syndrome following 12-week nut consumption. Tulipani, S., Llorach, R., Jauregui, O., et al. Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Journal of Proteome Research, 2011;10(11):5047-58.
  16. Bioactive compounds with effects on inflammation markers in humans. Rosa, F.T., Zulet, M.A., Marchini, J.S., Martinez, J.A. Division of Clinical Nutrition, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paolo, Sao Paolo, Brazil. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, 2012.
  17. Modulation of the stress response by coffee: an in vivo microdialysis study of hippocampal serotonin and dopamine levels in rat. Laboratory of Food Processing, Department of Nutrition Sciences, Nakamaura Gauken University, Fukuoka, Japan. Neuroscience Letters, 2002;332(2):87-90.
  18. Bioactive compounds with effects on inflammation markers in humans. Rosa, F.T., Zulet, M.A., Marchini, J.S., et al. Division of Clinical Nutrition, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of Sao Paolo, Sao Paolo, Brazil. International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, 2012.

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