Food & Recipes

Lift Your Mood With These Delicious, Healthy, Serotonin-Boosting Foods

If you haven’t been in the best of moods, one of the easiest fixes is to fill your belly with delicious and healthy treats. Finding comfort and joy in your food is a wonderful way to lift your spirit — and there’s research to back it! Check out these mood-lifting foods that will take you from blah to blissful.

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Dark chocolate activates the cuddle hormone.

Savoring a dark chocolate treat can lift your mood for up to four hours, and indulging twice weekly will help you feel 50 percent cheerier and more energetic all winter long. That’s the word from scientists at Tucson’s University of Arizona, who say cocoa boasts a rare plant compound, phenylethylamine, that energizes brain neurons, increasing their production of the smile-inducing “cuddle hormone” — oxytocin.

Popcorn boosts feel-good serotonin.

The right-now Rx for a meh mood? Digging into a big, yummy bowl of popcorn! This crunchy snack contains rich stores of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that your brain uses to build the antidepressant hormone serotonin. In fact, Australian research suggests that digging into this tasty (and whole grain!) snack can provide a three-hour happiness boost. For best results, opt for air-popped kernels since butter stalls tryptophan absorption.

Eggs increase levels of a key focus hormone.

If go-go-go days are making you feel scattered, eggs can help! The protein-rich gems brim with nutrients (vitamin B-12 and choline) that your brain uses to produce the mood-steadying, focus-enhancing neurotransmitter acetylcholine. No wonder University of Connecticut scientists say adding two eggs to your daily diet can foster a noticeable uptick in focus, concentration, and happiness scores in as little as one week.

Tomatoes tame stress surges.

A daily “dose” of tomatoes could keep you 30 percent calmer and happier all winter, according to University of Pennsylvania scientists, who credit the fruit’s red pigment — lycopene — with soothing the brain’s anxiety center. Plus, lycopene is easier to absorb once tomatoes are cooked, so winter warmers like tomato soup and pasta with red sauce bring big benefits.

Beef maximizes blood-sugar control.

Eating three servings of beef a week can slash your risk of seasonal doldrums in half, plus help you feel 65 percent more clear-headed and calm in 10 days, say UCLA researchers. That’s because beef ’s fatty acids heighten insulin sensitivity and blood-glucose control, preventing blood-sugar dips — a prime trigger of blue moods.

Cheese calms overworked adrenal glands.

Biting into cheesy treats, like ooey-gooey nachos, can improve your outlook by 40 percent, often in as little as 10 minutes! That’s the word from Stanford University researchers. The reason? Cheese’s unique mix of calcium, dairy fats, and amino acids calms the adrenal glands, cutting their release of the mood-dampening stress hormone cortisol by as much as 30 percent. (We already suspected that cheese was one of the best mood-lifting foods!)

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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