According to author and happiness expert, Shawn Achor, “Happiness is actually an individual choice, even in the midst of negative circumstances,” (i). So, what are the buildings blocks of happiness?
In addition to cultivating a mindful, grateful, and selfless outlook, studies suggest that a brighter mood can be achieved by proactively choosing a healthy diet rich in the vitamins and nutrients below.
Vitamins and Nutrients That Promote Happiness
- Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA). ALA is a special fatty acid found in certain nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. This fatty acid is important, as it helps the body use other omega fatty acids (see omega 3, 6, 9 below). To get more ALA in your daily diet, add flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, or walnuts to a bowl of your favorite yogurt or oatmeal.
- Calcium. Of course, milk is a great source of calcium that is easily added to smoothies, oatmeal, and other snacks. For even more calcium, try kale, collard greens, or yogurt.
- Chromium. Studies show chromium essential in the regulation of important chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine. Broccoli, grape juice, potatoes, and turkey breast are all great sources of chromium.
- Beta-carotene. Many power foods are rich in beta-carotene, a nutrient that has been shown to improve mood. Next time you are looking for a quick snack, try carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, or kale.
- Folate. Also referred to as B9 or folic acid, folate is another nutrient that has been shown to regulate serotonin in the brain. Snack on spinach, black eyed peas, asparagus, avocado, or brussels sprouts to more feel-good-folate.
- Iron. Improve energy levels while protecting against depression with iron, a nutrient that has been shown to reduce fatigue and stabilize mood. The best iron-rich foods include lentils, beef, and dark turkey.
- Lutein. Few nutrients are more beneficial to your body than lutein (see also zeaxanthin below). Lutein has demonstrated the ability to reduce cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, two conditions that are on the rise worldwide (i). Add lutein to your diet by choosing more leafy greens, like kale, spinach, collard greens, turnips, romaine lettuce, and green peas.
- Magnesium. Feeling lethargic, depressed, and stressed? Up your magnesium intake, and reap the all-natural benefits of this vital mineral. Almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, and edamame are all good sources.
- Omega 3, 6, & 9 fatty acids. Collectively referred to as omegas by many health enthusiasts, these fatty acids play an important role in building and maintaining brain health. Reduce fatigue, fight depression, and moderate mood by including more omega fatty acids in your diet—you might even improve memory, too! Try chia seeds, salmon, Chinese broccoli, spinach, or high quality omega fish oil supplements.
- Priobiotics. There are about 5lbs of bacteria living inside your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and probiotics help to keep them balanced. That’s important when it comes to mood, since imbalance may lead to feelings of anxiety and depression (ii). There are a variety of delicious probiotic sources, including: Yogurt, kefir, miso soup, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi.
- Selenium. Selenium is an important mineral that is known to aid in detoxification while also supporting healthy thyroid function, two processes that can cause anxiety, depression, and fatigue when hindered. Good sources of this important mineral include shrimp, sardines, salmon, turkey, chicken, cod, beef, lamb, and scallops.
- Vitamin B6, B12. Many B vitamins have a synergistic effect when combined, which is why most health supplements contain a “vitamin B complex.” Vitamins B6 and B12 have been shown to improve neurotransmitter production and regulation, effectively protecting against fatigue, depression, anxiety, and other negative emotional states. To ensure a healthy dose of these powerful vitamins, add rainbow trout, sockeye salmon, Swiss cheese, Mozzarella, pistachio nuts, liver, and mackerel to your favorite meals.
- Vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D have been correlated with a weaker immune system, depression, and a higher mortality rate (particularly among women). Protect yourself from these side effects of vitamin D deficiency by incorporating the following foods into your daily diet: Eggs yolks, beef or calf liver, salmon, swordfish, mushrooms, cod liver oil, and milk.
- Zeaxanthin. Like lutein, zeaxanthin is a carotenoid found in many orange and reddish color vegetables that has been shown to improve health. The most common sources of this vital nutrient include cooked kale, steamed spinach, sautéed collard greens, broccoli, romaine lettuce, carrots, green beans, and eggs.
- Zinc. Rounding out our list is zinc, a nutrient known to not only reduce the symptoms of depression, but also improve the response of antidepressants (iii). Feel better fast by snacking on the following foods that are rich in zinc: pumpkin seeds, cashews, crab meat, oysters, pork loin, beef, Swiss cheese, spinach, and squash seeds.