Want to keep anxiety in check, stay happy and in a good mood all the time? Forget the pills, eat these lesser known happy foods instead. Not only will they deliver lots of nutrition to keep you in good physical health, they can also help keep your frame of mind upbeat at all times. Yes, eating these foods could be your best (and cheapest) bet to chase away those moody blues, and keep your brain in good shape too. Go on plate these 13 happy foods consciously.
Carrots deliver the difficult to find vitamin B8, also called inositol, which supports the formation and maintenance of healthy cells, and also exhibits strong stress and anxiety relief properties.
Bonus benefit: B8 also functions as a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in mental health and cognitive function. Plus beta-carotene that carrots deliver protects the central nervous system against ageing, and can help keep our memory sharp.
This is a happy fruit as it is loaded with tryptophan, which gets converted into serotonin in the body. Serotonin is known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier. In fact, low level of serotonin is a known cause of mood disorders and depression. Bananas also deliver high levels of tyrosine, which is a precursor to “happy” neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine!
Bonus benefit: Banana also delivers lutein, an antioxidant that helps the retina cells to regenerate.
Betaine (used in fact in some depression medications), and tryptophan, in beets help relax and make us feel happier. This red root is kind of like chocolate, but without the fat.
Bonus benefit: betains also trigger enzyme GST’s activity, which is important for the elimination of toxins and cleansing of our body.
Bell peppers are considered one of the best brain foods. High presence of vitamin B6 increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, the ‘happy hormones’ associated with improved mood, higher energy levels and more concentration. In fact low levels of these have been linked with several mental disorders like ADHD.
Bonus benefit: The sulphur content in bell peppers makes them cancer protective too.
You might find it difficult to believe (appearances can be deceptive) but lauki has a sedative effect on us (calms and relaxes us). That’s because it contains a good amount of choline – a kind of neurotransmitter that improves the functions of the brain and helps prevent stress, depression and other mental disorders.
Bonus benefit: vitamin C and zinc in lauki help prevent premature ageing of the skin and wrinkles, and the B vitamins in it can help delay greying of hair.
Cashew contains magnesium, a mineral, which acts as a natural sedative. Magnesium deficiency can spell sleep troubles. So paring milk and cashew at bed time can help you sleep better.
Bonus benefit: Another good news here is that cashews good fat content helps the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and vitamin K, and produce fatty acids that are vital for the development of the brain.
The isoquinoline alkaloids found in fox nuts (makhana) have sedative and calming properties so can help bust stress and keep one happier.
Bonus benefit: These alkaloids also help dilate blood vessels and keep the blood pressure under control.
Moringa rightfully belongs to the niche group of adaptogens, the new stress-fighting super herbs that effectively helps the body adapt to stress and handle it in a healthy way (instead of letting it run us down). It helps up the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain and that explains its positive role in boosting our memory and mood.
Bonus benefit: High content of vitamins E and C in moorina is great news for our brain too as these help prevent cognitive decline.
Mushrooms are said to calm and support nerve function. Definitely helpful for people who suffer from chronic stress, anxiety or insomnia.
Bonus benefit: Their high fibre content and low calories also help fill up with minimum calorie damage and deliver loads of satiety.
Pumpkin seeds pack a big punch! They are rich in tryptophan that can keep our mood upbeat.
Bonus benefit: these seeds also deliver phytosterols that help reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, besides delivering good fats that can help keep our heart healthy.
Those with significant depression levels have been found to have lower levels of docosahexaenoic and eicosapentanoic acids, and walnuts which are rich in these can help deliver these to close the gap.
Bonus benefit: walnuts are diabetes protective as well, thanks to the good fats and magnesium they deliver.
Vitamin B6 found in watermelon is used by the body to manufacture brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) - serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, which help the body cope with anxiety and panic and keep one happy and calm.
Bonus benefit: Watermelon delivers lots of difficult to find and essential for health trace minerals (copper, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc).
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico), Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa) and Fix it with foods.)