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19 Mood-Boosting Foods for Increased Happiness

When we have a bad day or feel a bit blue, we turn to our favorite comfort foods to help us feel better. But according to studies, most of the foods we consider to be comforting can end up actually making us feel worse. According to researchers, foods with high-fat and refined sugar levels increase levels of anxiety and guilty feelings. Luckily, there’s a wide variety of foods that promote both physical and psychological benefits, including a reduction in stress levels, relieving anxiety and even fighting depression. Now that’s something to feel good about!

Mood-Boosting Fruits & Veggies


This stalky vegetable is rich in a number of nutrients that help in boosting your mood. Asparagus is a great source of tryptophan, which helps to create serotonin, one of the primary mood-regulating neurotransmitters of the brain. It also contains high levels of folate and fiber, both of which have shown to help ward off depression-like symptoms. Enjoy them grilled, roasted or even tossed in a pasta salad!


While most kids shudder at the thought of this leafy green, spinach is actually an excellent source of magnesium, which can help reduce anxiety. Like asparagus, spinach contains folates and also zinc, both of which fight depression. Good for both the body & mind!


Bananas are one of the best sources of energy for your body. They contain high levels of potassium and B vitamins, which can provide your body with a sustained release of energy, helping you feel energized longer. Bananas also have tryptophan, iron, phosphorus and tons of vitamins!


Millennials rejoice! Avocados, commonly known for nutritious fats, have a variety of other benefits for the body. They contribute to boosting the production of hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. Hormone levels typically become imbalanced when the body is under stress, is fighting an infection, or if you have a poor diet. These imbalances have a big impact on our mood, so by regulating these levels, it keeps you feeling happy and normal!

sliced avocado


Kale has emerged as a popular superfood in the last several years, and it’s not without good reason. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, and also contains copper, potassium, iron and phosphorous, all of which contribute to a natural energy boost. It is recommended to consume kale cooked rather than raw, so it is easier to digest and absorb all the important nutrients.

Bell peppers

These tasty veggies have two different properties that help to boost your mood. First, they are packed with vitamin C, which helps neurotransmitters function properly. Bell peppers also contain vitamin B6, which aids in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, both of which affect your mood. Just slice them up and eat with hummus or light ranch dressing for a healthy afternoon snack!

Mood-Boosting Proteins


Salmon and other fatty fish contain a variety of nutrient-rich benefits to our bodies. There are two key elements that contribute to salmon being a mood-boosting food. First, there are omega-3 fatty acids, which provides a mood-boosting chemical nutrient that our bodies can’t produce on their own. The second is vitamin B12, and salmon contains double the daily recommended value. Getting the proper amount of B12 can aid in overall mental health and fighting depression.

baked salmon


We all know the slump that comes after finishing a Thanksgiving feast, due partially to the high levels of tryptophan in turkey. But, that tryptophan also helps to produce serotonin, the most important chemical in our bodies in terms of mood. Turkey also contains an amino acid called tyrosine, which has been shown to boost levels of dopamine. Pass the gravy boat!


While most people will scrunch up their nose at the thought of these canned fish, sardines are actually a great mood-boosting food! Packed with a variety of nutrients such as vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D, these little guys back a big, healthy punch. Try pan-frying them with olive oil, garlic and some lemon zest for a tasty meal!


These salty treats from the sea contain some of the highest naturally occurring levels of vitamin B12. In addition to B12, mussels and other shellfish also contain trace amounts of other nutrients that help to balance your mood, such as zinc, iodine and selenium.


A staple in just about every household, eggs are a great mood-boosting food to add to your diet! They’re loaded with the nutrient choline, which helps produce neurotransmitters and improve mood. Eggs are also full of amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and magnesium that help anxiety. You can take them on-the-go as a hard boiled snack, or whip up some scrambled eggs for a protein-fueled breakfast!

Mood-Boosting Grains & Seeds


Considered to be a superfood, quinoa is a complex carbohydrate that boosts your mood and energy levels. Other added perks of this complete protein: it helps to prevent blood sugar spikes, contains high levels of lysine, magnesium and folates, AND it’s gluten-free!

quinoa in a bowl


Lentils are a mood-boosting food that have a wide range of health benefits. They are packed full of folate to ward off depression, high in fiber, iron, protein and vitamin B6. Studies show that low levels of B6 are associated with depression, so adding lentils to your diet can definitely help boost your mood!


Much like salmon and fatty fish, chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce anxiety and depression. They also contain high levels of protein and fiber, which contribute positively to your overall health. Just throw a handful in your morning yogurt or overnight oats, and you’re ready to start your day on a positive note.

Pumpkin seeds

This Halloween, don’t throw out the seeds inside of your jack-o-lantern! Pumpkin seeds contain a substantial amount of tryptophan, zinc and magnesium. Plus, with protein and fiber, it’s a healthy snack that will leave you feeling full longer. Toast your pumpkin seeds with a little parmesan or chili powder for an addictingly healthy snack!

Sunflower seeds

No need to save this snack for a baseball game — sunflower seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, which contribute to mood improvement. In fact, just a handful of these seeds can give you half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium! In addition to boosting mood, magnesium is also beneficial in boosting serotonin levels, and also contain high levels of fiber which helps to maintain hormone levels.

Mood-Boosting Snacks & Drinks


You read that one right — chocolate, in fact, does make you happy! Dark chocolate releases endorphins and also helps to boost serotonin levels in the brain. In addition, research shows that eating a small piece of dark chocolate can lower levels of stress hormones, thanks to the antioxidants it contains.

dark chocolate

Almonds and nuts

Whether you eat them on their own, in some trail mix, or even as a spread, nuts are a great source of protein and mood-boosting nutrients. Almonds, cashews and hazelnuts specifically contain high amounts of magnesium for energy and mood boosts, fiber to manage blood sugar levels, and vitamin E which is an antioxidant and can even help improve memory.

Green tea

For centuries, green tea has been utilized for its variety of health benefits. It contains antioxidants and nutrients that improve brain function, contribute to fat loss, and lower the risk of cancer. For its mood-boosting properties, green tea contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid that helps to fight anxiety and lowers depression symptoms. It also contains caffeine, can improve dental health and reduce bad breath, making it a great alternative to a cup of coffee!

Next time you need a small boost, don’t reach for the fast food french fries! Try a scientifically proven mood-boosting food, such as dark chocolate or a salad full of dark leafy greens. It’s a choice your body and mind will thank you for.

infographic of mood boosting foods


Food Matters | Everyday Health | Eating Well | Culinary Nutrition | Dr. Axe

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