By Dr. Josh Axe
Avocado benefits are far-reaching, particularly in the brain department. In fact, you’ll find them on nearly every healthy-eating list I create — and with good reason. This superfood is loaded with benefits ranging from protecting your heart to helping with digestion, but it’s also a great pick for improving your mood. Avocados are natural hormone balancers, ensuring your brain is making the right chemicals needed for keep it feeling great. If I had to recommend just one food to eat to feel happier, this would be it, the mood-boosting avocado. It’s the No. 1 food to eat to feel happier.
Try it: Satisfy your sweet tooth and enjoy all of avocados’ benefits with my Chocolate Avocado Mousse recipe.
Juicy grapes are the ultimate take-along snack, but these powerful little fruits are also handy when you want to feel better. When you look at grapes nutrition, you see they are packed with antioxidants, especially flavonoids, which have been found to affect mood. (3) While you can get some of the antioxidant benefits from red wine, which is made from grapes, alcohol is a known depressant. Keep your spirits up by eating the fruit in its natural state instead.
Try it. This hearty homemade Chicken Salad recipe includes a serving of grapes, but feel free to serve extra on the side.
3. Shiitake mushrooms
This meaty mushroom has more to offer than just taste. Upgrading your normal white mushrooms to this Asian variety brings a variety of nutrients to the table, including vitamin B6. While the entire B vitamin complex family is critical to ensuring our physical and psychological functions operate normally, B6, also known as pyridoxine, is particularly great for improving your mood and feeling good.
Because vitamin B6 impacts the production of serotonin and neurotransmitters, healthy B6 levels are associated with a positive mood and reducing stress naturally. (4a) It’s also been proven to effectively treat mood disorders like depression. (4b) Plus, shiitake mushrooms are a delicious addition to meat-free meals thanks to their texture and ability to soak up sauces and taste. Mmm.
Try it: My Vegan Sushi mixes shiitake mushrooms, cauliflower rice and some tasty veggies for a vegan-friendly sushi that everyone will enjoy.
4. Raw nuts
It’s time to go nuts. That’s because these bite-sized foods are loaded with healthy benefits that will leave you smiling. Nuts are full of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that’s in short supply when you’re depressed. (5) Nuts are also full of antioxidants and healthy fats. I’m a fan of walnuts, Brazil nuts and cashews — just be sure to be mindful of how many you eat. While they are healthy, nuts are also high in fat and calories, so a handful or two is usually the right amount.
Try it. These Salty Lime Roasted Nuts combine sea salt with maple syrup for a sweet and salty snack you can eat on the go.
Wild-caught salmon is one of the best foods for both your mood and brain health. This lean protein contains double your recommended value of vitamin B12. Getting enough of this vitamin is crucial to warding off depressing and staying mentally healthy. (6)
One study found that patients with the highest vitamin B12 levels were most successful in combatting depression. (7) Salmon also packs a punch of mood-stabilizing essential fatty acids. These bad boys keep your brain operating in tip-top shape by helping you producing the right chemicals so you can turn that frown upside down. (8)
Try it. This Salmon Stir Fry recipe comes together in minutes and pairs my favorite fish with a heap of fresh veggies.
6. Sesame seeds
Not just a topping, sesame seeds are powerful in their own right. This ancient crop has been keeping happy levels up for thousands of years. Its benefits stem from tyrosine. This amino acid boosts the brain’s dopamine levels, kicking the feel-good hormone into high gear, while balancing out the others. Pretty impressive for such a small seed!
Try it. Sprinkle sesame seeds on salad or in smoothies. You can also roast them and make this Tahini recipe, a delicious alternative to the usual hummus.
Last in this list of mood-boosting foods? Probably the most beloved of berries: the strawberry, which proves the berries are rich in an array of vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A and C and manganese. Because of this, strawberries serve as a strong line of defense against brain degeneration, while also boosting the happy chemicals your brain produces. And who can argue at how good they taste?
Try it. My Strawberry Rhubarb Chia Seed Pudding is dairy-free, full of berries and makes an excellent breakfast or dessert.