In a manner of speaking, you really are what you eat—there’s no denying that food has the ability to affect your mood both positively and negatively. But how exactly do different dishes change the chemistry of your body and mind? And which ones make you happy, and which ones sad? Read on for five foods that can lift you up and five that will drag you down.
All types of fish can help you feel happier, but oilier varieties like salmon contain B-12 vitamins that help increase serotonin and increase positive feelings. Salmon is also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which elevate mood and can even chase away mild depression.
Sad: Potato Chips
Salty potato chips are the enemy of mood-elevating fish like salmon, because they block all the omega-3 fatty acids that help you feel happy. Many chips are fried in omega-6 acids, which can cancel out all the benefits of omega-3s, causing you to feel less happy and alert.
Happy: Fruits and Vegetables
Unsurprisingly, a diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can lead to increased feelings of happiness. Studies show that consuming fruits and vegetables regularly results in increased energy and mental wellbeing.
In another unsurprising revelation, sugar is bad for both your body and mind, causing a brief spike of happiness that soon gives way to headaches and sluggishness. Sugar’s simple carbohydrate composition, coupled with a high glycemic index, leads to this quick dip in feelings, and the effect is even more pronounced in foods that combine sugar and white flour, such as cake or doughnuts.
Too much coffee can leave you an irritable, jittery mess, but moderate amounts in the morning have been shown to increase energy levels along with feelings of kindness and pleasure. Additionally, women who consume two to three cups of coffee daily have shown a 15% less likelihood to develop depression. Not to mention, drinking coffee socially can also encourage feelings of friendship and affection.
Sad: Fried Foods
Many of us think of fried delights as comfort foods, and while a plate of fried chicken might help you feel better in the short term, these dishes are jam-packed with trans fats that can negatively affect your mood in the long term. Trans fats can make your brain work less efficiently and also lead to depression if consumed in large amounts over time.
Blueberries are filled with antioxidants that stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain, increasing memory and concentration for hours. In addition to boosting focus, antioxidants have been shown to prevent conditions like dementia.
You wouldn’t expect a vegetarian staple to be bad for you, but studies have shown that tofu, when consumed in excessive amounts, can negatively affect memory, especially in eaters over age 68. Tofu and other soy products contain high levels of phytoestrogens, which can decrease memory function and may even cause dementia.
Happy: Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and caffeine that can increase your focus, but it also contains L-Theanine, a unique compound that works alongside caffeine to release energy more steadily, avoiding the crashes that are so common with other caffeinated drinks. Studies have also shown that people who drink five cups of green tea daily demonstrate lower overall levels of psychological stress.
Sad: Salty Foods
Again, no surprise here, but super salty foods can negatively affect both your mood and your cognitive function. Some studies have even drawn correlations between the addictive qualities of sodium-rich foods and habit-forming drugs.