By now, it’s hard to deny that your diet affects more than your pants size — it’s also a major factor in your happiness and well-being. Too often, though, diet recommendations focus on the things you should not eat. Here at Organic Authority, we think it’s more fun to talk about what you should eat (and enjoy)! So let’s take a moment to review some of the best dietary mood boosters, courtesy of bestselling book The Happiness Diet.
1. Vitamin B12
It helps prevent disease, makes you sleep better and feel more balanced. Great sources for B12 are shellfish (pass the lobster!), fish, beef, liver and eggs. Vegans should eat plenty of nutritional yeast and B12-fortified products like soymilk.
There’s a reason that table salt is fortified with iodine: It’s a necessary nutrient for life, and we generally don’t get enough of it. Iodine keeps your thyroid healthy, regulating your metabolism and keeping your brain (and other organs) functioning smoothly. So eat your sushi: Great sources include seaweed, fish, clams, shrimp, sardines, eggs, grass-fed meat and milk, and potato skins.
This often-overlooked “miracle mineral” helps you relax — from your mind to your nerves and muscles — helping stave off depression and anxiety. Find it in leafy greens, whole grains, salmon, beans, sunflower seeds and blackstrap molasses.
Surprise! Cholesterol, far from being the enemy of any healthy heart, is actually an important part of your brain’s ideal diet. Yes, you should avoid trans fats and LDL cholesterol. But HDL (the good kind) can strengthen your brain and help prevent it from the effects of age. So eat your eggs, salmon, meat, milk, cheese and even lard from sustainably raised, grass-fed animals!
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the reason you love the sunlight! Our primary source for this essential vitamin is the sun, which our skin uses to convert cholesterol into D. It doesn’t just make you happy and relaxed, but also helps your body fight disease, depression, PMDD, cancer and the pesky old common cold. Aside from sunlight, get your D from fatty fish, butter and lard from pasture-raised animals, and mushrooms that have been exposed to the sun.
Not just a bone-builder, calcium stabilizes your mood, mental balance and hormone levels. Too little calcium can also cause weight gain and PMS. Luckily, calcium is easy to come by: Good sources include sardines, milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, cabbage, collard, mustard, and turnip greens, spinach, almonds, pecans and walnuts.
Low fiber consumption has been linked to depression and suicide — not just because it reduces inflammation and helps you regulate your blood sugar, but because high-fiber foods also contain the other important happiness nutrients! Don’t just stir processed fiber into your water, though; eat real live plants to see fiber’s true benefit. Any plant will do, but the best are leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beans and fruit.
Folate is brain food! It makes you think more clearly and helps you avoid mood imbalance (aka depression). Great sources include spinach, kale, black beans, black-eyed peas and lentils.
9. Vitamin A
Eat your carrots, right? Wrong! In fact, the most viable source for Vitamin A is animal fat. A helps your body create neurotransmitters like dopamine, ultimately regulating your mood, memory and learning. The best foods for A are liver, egg yolks, shellfish, butter, and whole milk; vegans should eat a lot more carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and squash.
These essential fatty acids strengthen your heart to keep you from, you know, dying. But they also help you form complex thoughts and stave off a huge variety of diseases. They’re used by every cell in your body. Eat more fatty fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon, free-range eggs, and grass-fed meat!
11. Vitamin E
Fun fact: Vitamin E is actually a collection of eight antioxidants that help protect the fats in your brain from free radicals, so your body can get the most use out of all that salmon you’re eating. Get plenty of vitamin E to help prevent depression, Alzheimer’s, cancer, inflammation and good old cognitive decline. The best foods are almonds, olives, beet greens, turnip greens, collard greens and Swiss chard.
Your body need iron to produce energy, and that’s especially important for your brain development. In fact, studies have shown that low iron makes teenagers perform worse on tests, and (more ominously) infants with low iron levels may have cognitive challenges later in life. And while you may have heard that leafy greens are the best source of iron, in fact your body gets more from shellfish, grass-fed beef, duck, dark chicken meat and liver.
Check out iVillage for more details and recipes.
Photo by gamene on Flickr.